Twin desert tortoises   Twin desert tortoises

Gopherus agassizii twins, before and after separation. Photographs by Lillian Greene

Nancy Turbett, a friend, called Lillian Greene at 6:30 pm on August 26, 1992 with the news that when she checked on her desert tortoise eggs that were incubating in the incubator one had pipped at the bottom as well as at the top!

At 10:30 that evening Nancy thought the hatchling was having trouble so she decided to open the egg to help it get out. To her surprise, when she opened the egg she found that there were two hatchlings inside, connected back to back to a single yolk sac.

Nancy cleaned the hatchlings and placed the pair in a depression made in a clean plastic lunch-bag packed with cotton balls. This is a useful trick to use for any hatchlings that emerge with large yoke sacs. The plastic provides a soft, smooth and clean surface that helps to reduce the risk of the egg sac sticking and tearing before it is absorbed. This was particularly important in this case as the two fairly even sized hatchlings were pulling in opposite directions.