Monday, 9 October 2017

'Janus Cat' Born in China: How Can an Animal Have 2 Faces?

By Stephanie Pappas, Live Science Contributor | September 25, 2017 04:21pm ET

The cat, according to Newsflare, died at 2 days old. A short life span is common for these two-faced cats, which have a condition called diprosopus. The name "Janus" refers to the similarly two-faced Roman god.

Occasionally, diprosopus is caused by a case of conjoined twinning in which just one head forms, said Niels Pedersen, a professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. More often, Pedersen told Live Science, the problem is a hiccup in a gene that makes a protein named "sonic hedgehog." The protein is important in the embryonic development of the skull and face, as well as the extremities. It's named after the video game hedgehog for quirky reasons: Previously discovered, related proteins, had been named after different species of hedgehogs because of their spiky shapes. The discovery of the sonic hedgehog gene happened just around the time the Sega game hit the U.S. (The researcher who named it had kids who were aficionados.) [The 12 Weirdest Animal Discoveries]

Mutations in the sonic hedgehog gene are partially responsible for the loss of limbs in snakes, for example, and changes in the gene have been implicated in the evolutionary divergence between species.

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