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Two-Faced Animals: Diprosopus or Craniofacial Duplication

Linda Crampton is a writer and teacher with an honors degree in biology. She loves to study nature and write about living things.

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.

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. The breed's name is traditionally capitalized.

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.

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.

A Guinness World Record for Lifespan

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. At least one person is an exception, however. Tres Johnson of Missouri has partial craniofacial duplication and celebrated his fifteenth birthday in 2019, according to the Facebook page established in his honour. I hope he's currently doing well.

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

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

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 fifteen (and that he will hopefully celebrate his sixteenth birthday this year). He has medical problems, but I hope that treatments improve and that he has a long and 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

Comments

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 18, 2018:

Thank you, Laurie.

Laurie Bennett on March 18, 2018:

Very interesting read!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 02, 2018:

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.

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on January 02, 2018:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 02, 2016:

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

Taranwanderer on February 02, 2016:

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!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 15, 2015:

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 Uribe from Medellin, Colombia on September 15, 2015:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 21, 2015:

Thank you for the visit and the comment, adevwriting.

Arun Dev from United Countries of the World on July 21, 2015:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 04, 2015:

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

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on January 04, 2015:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 04, 2015:

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

Tanya Jones from Texas USA on January 04, 2015:

Very interesting information. Shared.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 01, 2015:

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.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on January 01, 2015:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 19, 2014:

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.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on December 19, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 17, 2014:

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!

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on December 17, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 16, 2014:

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

Mel Carriere from San Diego California on December 16, 2014:

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!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 16, 2014:

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.

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on December 16, 2014:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 16, 2014:

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

Debra Allen from West By God on December 16, 2014:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 16, 2014:

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

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 16, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 15, 2014:

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 Crawford from Dartmoor on December 15, 2014:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 15, 2014:

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

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on December 15, 2014:

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!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 15, 2014:

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.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on December 15, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 15, 2014:

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 from England on December 15, 2014:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 15, 2014:

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

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on December 15, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 14, 2014:

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

Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on December 14, 2014:

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 +.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 14, 2014:

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 Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on December 14, 2014:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 14, 2014:

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 from southern USA on December 14, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 13, 2014:

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

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on December 13, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 13, 2014:

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.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 13, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 13, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 13, 2014:

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 from USA on December 13, 2014:

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

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 13, 2014:

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

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