By Konstantine Fekos
CNHI News Service
MEADVILLE, Pa. —
It sounds like a tabloid headline: “Local woman digs up two-headed piglet in backyard.”
But it actually describes Sharon Reagle’s Sunday afternoon when she unearthed a glass jar containing the foot-long oddity, fully preserved, from her mother’s property in Pennsylvania.
“It was unique; pretty neat really,” Reagle said of the mutated piglet, dark brown with two ears, two eyes and two snouts. “It didn’t bother me at all.”
She first discovered what she thought was a jug while planting hostas near the woods at Betty Wood’s home in Saegertown, Pa.
An impromptu excavation produced the container, which was filled with an unidentified preserving fluid and a bag that was tied closed. Once they opened the container and bag, they discovered the baby pig.
“My parents lived there for 56 years and never raised pigs,” Reagle said, so the jar’s presence was a total surprise to her family and friends. “The neighbors thought it was neat too.”
With the pig out of the bag — literally — and some of the preserving fluid lost in the process, Reagle chose to stow the animal in her mother’s freezer overnight. She then contacted the biology department at Allegheny College to discuss donating the specimen.
“Awesome,” said Lisa Whitenack, assistant professor of biology, who accepted the piglet Monday afternoon. “This is like Christmas for a biologist. The students will love it.”
While carbon dating would prove too costly a project, Whitenack suggested the family have the jar dated to better estimate when it could’ve been buried.
“The pig can’t be older than the jar,” Whitenack said. “And from the look of it, this wasn’t preserved in a lab.”
Preserving an animal entails cutting an opening to allow formaldehyde inside the body, she explained. While the exterior is decently preserved, the inside may show signs of rot once she gets a chance to open it up.
Whitenack found no incisions on the animal upon her initial examination.
“We’ll thaw it out, probably by the end of fall or early winter,” Whitenack said. “Even if it’s completely liquefied inside, we can strip off the skin and everything and display the skeleton.”
Not only would the display serve as an educational tool for students, she predicted, the skull should look pretty cool too.
As for the piglet’s developmental origins, Whitenack also speculated it may have experienced an incomplete embryonic separation, with its resulting deformity not unlike the formation of a conjoined twin.
While a mutated piglet wasn’t the first object found in the dirt on Wood’s property, Reagle said it’s certainly the strangest.
“We’ve found old coins and a lot of things not worth anything, but this is something else,” Wood said. “Heaven knows what we’re going to find next.”
Story from the Meadville Tribune.