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Rare Tortoise Twins Thrive After Hatching in New Jersey [VIDEO]

Oct 23, 2015 02:08 PM EDT

It's normal for humans to birth twins, but it's very rare for tortoises. That's because tortoise twins cannot usually fully develop or hatch properly while sharing the same egg. Two teeny twin Western Hermann's tortoises recently defeated the odds and are thriving at the Garden State Tortoise organization in New Jersey.

Western Hermann's tortoises (Testudo hermanni) are relatively small- to medium-sized tortoises with black and yellow patterned shells. They are originally from southern Europe and prefer to live in habitats that include forests, grasslands and farmlands. These tortoises are often illegally sold, and when they are exported to unsuitable cold and wet climates, they die fairly quickly.  

When Chris Leone, founder of Garden State Tortoise, noticed one of the Western Hermann's babies was having trouble hatching, he decided to step in. That's when he noticed it was still attached to its twin by an umbilical cord-like yolk sac, according to NBC New York. Leone has since named the twins BumbleBee and Yellowjacket. (Scroll to read more...)

Leone explained that twin tortoises are uncommon because one of them usually dies before making it to the hatching stage. If they are able to make it to the hatching stage, though, one is very often found dead inside the egg or they are physically conjoined.

Generally, female Hermann's tortoises lay anywhere from two and 12 eggs in a ground nest between the months of May and July and then the eggs are incubated for the next 90 days. After hatching, they spend the first four or five years living in and around their nests until their shells are fully developed. A fully grown tortoise can grow to seven inches long. 

In order to separate the newborn twins, Leone carefully used dental floss to safely sever the tiny yolk sac. He plans to keep them in an incubator until they grow stronger and begin eating on their own.  

"We expect them to do just as well as the rest as soon as they are out of this sensitive stage," Leone told NBC New York. 

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