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Two-Faced Animals: Diprosopus or Craniofacial Duplication

Updated on December 30, 2017
AliciaC profile image

Linda Crampton is a science teacher with an honors degree in biology. She loves to study nature and write about animals and plants.

Janus was the Ancient Roman god of beginnings. endings and transitions. He is often associated with the new year and is said to be looking at both the past and the future.
Janus was the Ancient Roman god of beginnings. endings and transitions. He is often associated with the new year and is said to be looking at both the past and the future. | Source

What Is a Janus Cat?

Janus cats have a face that is completely or partially duplicated. They are named after Janus, the Ancient Roman god who gave his name to the month of January. Janus had two faces, one looking forwards and one looking backwards. The technical name for the two-faced condition in real life is diprosopus or craniofacial duplication. It appears in other animals and in humans, but in North America it's probably best known for its existence in Frank and Louie. He was a ragdoll cat who lived successfully with the condition.

A Janus cat is one individual and has one head, one brain, one body, and one set of internal organs. The only part of the body that's always duplicated is the face. The amount of facial duplication varies. Sometimes structures close to the face are duplicated as well, including the esophagus—the tube that transports food from the throat to the stomach—and the front part of the cerebrum in the brain.

Frank and Louie died from cancer in 2014 at the age of fifteen. While his death is sad, examining his life is fascinating. Frank and Louie was a very significant example of a two-faced animal. He was significant because he lived a long and happy life despite his unusual features. Most animals with diprosopus die shortly after birth, but Frank and Louie defied the odds.

Frank and Louie, a Two-Faced or Janus Cat

Although a face is the means by which we recognize someone, the identity of a person or animal is really determined by their brain. Even when their face changes due to surgery, they are still the same individual. Similarly, the fact that an animal has two faces doesn't affect their identity, as long as they have only one brain.

Frank and Louie or Frankenlouie

Despite Frank and Louie's double name, he was one cat. After Frank and Louie was born in 1999, he was taken to a vet in Massachusetts as a one-day-old kitten. The plan was to euthanize him. It was thought that this was the kindest thing to do because there was no way that he could survive. Janus kittens typically live for only a few days.

A veterinary technician named Marty took pity on Frank and Louie. She took the kitten home with her, where he not only survived but eventually thrived. He did require surgery to correct some of his abnormalities, however. Frank and Louie was awarded a Guinness world record in 2012 for being the longest lived Janus cat.

Louis is a young, single-faced ragdoll cat. Frank and Louie was a ragdoll, too.
Louis is a young, single-faced ragdoll cat. Frank and Louie was a ragdoll, too. | Source

Frank and Louie's Life

Frank and Louie's two faces had three eyes in total, although the middle one wasn't functional, two noses, one functional mouth, and one nonfunctional mouth that lacked a lower jaw. He had only one esophagus. Luckily, unlike the case in most Janus cats, his combination of abnormalities didn't interfere with his survival or his enjoyment of life (once corrective surgery had been performed). Based on his lifespan and his normal behaviour, he didn't appear to have any duplication of the front of his brain.

Frank and Louie was an outgoing cat who enjoyed playing games, being stroked, walking on a leash, and taking car rides. He seems to have had a similar personality to my two ragdolls. He was able to move with ease in the direction that he wanted, even though his two functional eyes were widely separated. When he wanted to see something in detail, however, he had to swivel his head so that each of his eyes could collect information. He fed through his functional mouth on his right face, which was connected to his esophagus.

Frank and Louie Sets a Guinness World Record

The development of two faces is due to errors during the embryonic development of the animal. The condition is a sad one for animal lovers, since the affected animal usually dies, but its biology is interesting. The inspiring story of Frank and Louie shows us that a short or unhappy life may not be inevitable for all animals with diprosopus.

Humans With Two Faces

Diprosopus occurs in other animals besides cats. It's a rare and curious condition, so it usually makes news headlines when it's discovered. As in cats, all or only part of the face may be duplicated.

Sadly, humans can experience cranofacial duplication as well, though the condition seems to be rarer in humans than in other animals. Babies with diprosopus are usually stillborn or die shortly after birth. One person alive today is an exception, however. Tres Johnson of Missouri has partial craniofacial duplication and celebrated his thirteenth birthday in 2017.

Classification of Duplication Problems

In the amazing world of biology there are many possibilities. The classification of humans and animals with two faces can sometimes be confusing. Some categories are described below.

  • Humans or animals with diprosopus or craniofacial duplication have one head, one brain, and two faces (or partially duplicated faces). They are one individual. An example of someone with a completely duplicated face was Lali Singh. She was born in India in 2008 and lived for two months.
  • Conjoined twins have two heads, two brains, and two faces. They are two individuals, but their bodies are partially or completely fused. They may even have one body or share some of their internal organs. Although conjoined twins may die at a young age, some survive. Human conjoined twins can sometimes be separated surgically or live successfully while joined together. A current and inspirational example of the latter situation is the case of Abigail and Brittany Hensel in the United States.
  • An intermediate condition is possible. A sad example occurred in 2014 with the birth of Faith Daisy Howie and Hope Alice Howie in Australia. Faith and Hope each had their own face and their own brain. However, their brains were located in a single skull and they had only one head. The girls also had only one body. They lived for nineteen days.

The term "diprosopus" means two-faced in Greek. Despite the name, an animal with diprosopus may not have complete facial duplication.

The Biological Cause of Diprosopus or Craniofacial Duplication

The details of how an individual animal develops diprosopus aren't known. It occurs due to a problem in embryonic development. The cause of complete facial duplication may be different from the cause of partial duplication.

It's strongly suspected that the cause of partial facial duplication is related to a protein known as "sonic hedgehog". The production of sonic hedgehog is directed by a gene of the same name. The first hedgehog proteins were found in fruit fry larvae that had a spiky appearance. The spikes reminded researchers of a hedgehog's spines. When similar proteins were found in humans, researchers named them after a character called Sonic the Hedgehog in Sega Genesis video games. One of the research team had a child who liked this character.

A hedgehog in autumn; the name "sonic hedgehog" is indirectly related to this animal
A hedgehog in autumn; the name "sonic hedgehog" is indirectly related to this animal | Source

The Sonic Hedgehog Gene and Protein

Researchers are discovering that sonic hedgehog is involved in many different activities during embryonic development. The protein and its gene play a role in the patterning of the face during embryonic development. Very rarely, too much sonic hedgehog is made, which may lead to excessive duplication of structures. The protein also affects the development of the front part of the brain and is involved in the development of the heart as well.

One example of sonic hedgehog's function relates to the eye. The eye field is the patch of cells in the embryo that becomes the eyes. Sonic hedgehog causes the eye field to split, producing two eyes. When insufficient sonic hedgehog is made, an animal may be born with cyclopia. This is a condition in which only one eye is made. The single eye generally lies in the central axis of the face. An excessive amount of sonic hedgehog may cause too many eyes to be made.

The name "sonic hedgehog" has been criticized. A mutation (change) in the sonic hedgehog gene is involved in certain health problems. Some people think that the name of the gene and its protein sounds too frivolous or demeaning to mention in a discussion with patients or their parents. The gene and protein are sometimes referred to as SHH, which avoids the name problem.

The Future for a Two-Faced Individual

Sonic hedgehog is a very interesting protein, since it has so many effects. The many functions of the protein probably explain why individuals with diprosopus generally have other problems beside duplication of facial structures. They often have brain and heart abnormalities. These may contribute to the death of a two-faced individual soon after birth.

Thankfully, diprosopus is rare, but it often has a sad consequence when it appears. If craniofacial duplication is relatively minor and localized, however, it may be helped by surgery. Frank and Louie was extremely lucky that his particular abnormalities, his surgeries, and the loving care that he received enabled him to survive and enjoy life. It's wonderful that Tres Johnson has reached the age of thirteen. He has medical problems, but hopefully treatments will improve and he will have a good life.

References

Facts about Frank and Louie from the Toronto Star newspaper

Diprosopus information from Corinne DeRuiter, Embryo Project Encyclopedia, Arizona State University

A report about Lali Singh from the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)

SHH (sonic hedgehog) gene facts from the U.S. National Library of Medicine

© 2014 Linda Crampton

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    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 2 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I'm glad that Frank and Louie lived a long time and was happy, too, Peg. I wish the outcome was the same for every individual with the condition. I appreciate your visit.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas

      This story is amazing. I'm fascinated by the causes and perils of these sort of conditions and with those who endure and survive the surgeries. I'm glad that Frank and Louie lived a long and happy life.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the comment, Taranwanderer. I'm happy to meet you!

    • Taranwanderer profile image

      Taranwanderer 23 months ago

      Wow....that would have been very weird. Looking at a cat (or any animal) with two faces is quite the sight. I enjoyed reading your hub!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, David. The history of the name is interesting. A mutation in a particular gene produces distinctive bristles to appear in Drosophila flies, so the gene is called the hedgehog gene. Related genes in vertebrates are known as hedgehog genes, too. One of the scientists involved in studying them suggested calling them sonic hedgehog genes after a character in his daughter's comic book. The name for the genes and their proteins stuck.

    • David Trujillo profile image

      David Trujillo Uribe 2 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      As far as I remember Sonic the hedgehog was fast as hell, but had only one face. Why that name??

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the visit and the comment, adevwriting.

    • adevwriting profile image

      Arun Dev 2 years ago from United Countries of the World

      I hadn't heard about Craniofacial Duplication. Thanks for the info!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I'm grateful to the technician, too, Deb. She was very kind. Thank you for the visit.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      It's wonderful to know that Frankandlouie had a good life. I am grateful for the technician that saved him.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the comment, Arachnea. I appreciate the share, too.

    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 3 years ago from Texas USA

      Very interesting information. Shared.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the vote and the shares, Patricia. Thank you so much for the angels, too. I always appreciate their visit! Like you, I'm very glad that the kitty found a loving home and a person who was willing to help him.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 years ago from sunny Florida

      How informative this is. I have not seen this condition in an animal . It is so fortunate that the little kitty featured found someone who would love it and care for it so well

      Shared voted up g+

      Angels are on the way to you this evening. ps

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the comment, Vellur. Frank and Louie was very lucky that he met someone who was willing to give him a chance, even though the outlook didn't look good.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      Interesting and informative hub. I have never heard of a two faced cat before. Glad Frank and Louie had a long life in a loving home.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much, Catherine. I appreciate your comment and vote and the fact that you watched the videos. There are so many interesting hubs to read at HubPages that sometimes there just isn't time to watch all the videos!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      This is fascinating and so very well written. Voted up. I even watched the videos and I usually don't take the time to do that.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Mel. Yes, this is certainly the time of year for thinking about Janus cats! Thanks for the visit and the comment.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      I have never heard of Janus cats, so this was most definitely an interesting read. It was especially appropriate now that we have one face in 2014 and one looking ahead to 2015. Great hub!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the kind comment, Jo! I'm glad that Frank and Louie lived for a long time, too. He seems to have had a good life, despite his abnormalities.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      This is interesting and fascinating! I'm so glad that Frank and Louie found a good home and enjoyed a long life. Exceptional article.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Lady Guinevere. Thank you very much for the visit and the comment!

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 3 years ago from West By God

      Now that was an interesting read. I did learn a lot from this hub. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you, Devika! I appreciate your comment and votes very much.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A very interesting hub! The way you picked out these faces and shared such a useful hub is an amazing talent you have, thank you. Voted up, interesting, and useful.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment and the share, Georgina_writes. Frank and Louie did look content in the videos, which was very nice to see. I'm glad he had a good life.

    • Georgina_writes profile image

      Georgina_writes 3 years ago from Dartmoor

      Fascinating article, and the cat looked comfortable. Rating and sharing

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks so much for the comment and all the votes, Audrey. I appreciate the share very much, too!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      This is a fascinating hub, Alicia! Reading about this condition intrigued me so. I'm glad to know about this. Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and will be sharing as well. Great job!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, DzyMsLizzy. I agree. Frank and Louie's face was certainly unusual, but once someone has become used to it I think they'll agree that his face wasn't at all ugly. He seems to have had a lovely personality, which was much more important than his appearance. Thanks for the comment and the votes.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      What a lucky kitty to be taken in and so loved by such a caring lady. He really was a pretty cat; his face is unusual, to be sure, but it is not ugly.

      voted up, interesting and useful.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Nell. Thank you very much for the comment, vote and share! I'm glad that Frank and Louie lived a long life, too. He was very, very lucky.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hi Alicia, I saw this on the news, it's a fascinating subject, and as you said most of the Janus animals don't live very long, I am so glad he did, really interesting, voted up and shared! nell

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the visit, Bill. I appreciate your comment!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Linda, all I can say is amazing. What an interesting and fascinating story. I had never heard the term Janus Cats before so I learned something new today. Well done.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Suzanne. Thank you very much for the comment and for sharing the hub on Google+! I appreciate the vote, too.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      What a fascinating topic! Glad I found this article about Janus twins and why they are born that way. Voted useful and added to What The Hub? on Google +.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Maren Morgan. I agree - the technician's action was wonderful. It's always great when someone is open to differences in animals or in humans! Thanks for the visit.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Wow - so nice that the vet technician had a huge heart and an openness to differences.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Faith. Yes, Frank and Louie was very lucky. His condition could have been so much worse. It's a shame that he had any abnormalities, but it's good that the ones that he did have enabled him to live. Most two-faced cats aren't so fortunate.

      Thank you so much for the comment, the votes and all the shares, Faith. I hope you have a great week.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, my goodness! I, too, have never heard of such a condition, and I am so thrilled Frank and Louie was shown pity and lived a long life thanks to the kind person at the vet's office. Initially, I could not imagine how the cat would get along with two mouths and eyes, but so glad I read that only the one or one pair were functioning, so hopefully that helped Frank and Louis a bit?

      Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

      Thank you for sharing about this interesting condition.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Jodah. Thanks for the comment and the vote! I appreciate your visit.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      This was certainly interesting Alicia. I had never heard of the condition either. It is amazing that Frank and Louie lived such a long and happy life. voted up.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much, Bill. I appreciate your kind comment, as always. The two-faced condition is definitely strange! It was great that a kitten with the disorder was able to survive, but this isn't the usual outcome.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh my! That was fascinating and freaky all at the same time. I've never heard of this, but I'm sure glad you wrote about it. Thank you, my friend.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the comment, ologsinquito. It is wonderful that Frank and Louie's rescuer took such good care of him and gave him such a good life.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you so much, Flourish! I appreciate your lovely comment and all the shares very much. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, too!

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

      It's a really nice story. The cat obviously was loved and had very good care.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Absolutely fascinating! You hit this one out of the park. Pinning, sharing, voting way up and more. Have a great weekend!