Split Down the Middle: Peculiar Sheep Puzzles Experts Skip to content

Split Down the Middle: Peculiar Sheep Puzzles Experts

By Yelena

Photo: A screenshot from RÚV.

A peculiar lamb was born in Borgarfjörður eystri, East Iceland, last spring that has only grown more peculiar over the summer. Named Helmingur (e. Half), the ram’s coat is split neatly down the middle into two colours: while one side is white, the other is black. Several of its other features also differ from one side to the other. While one side of its head boasts a horn, the other does not. Experts have yet to confirm the reason for Helmingur’s peculiar characteristics, but one theory is that he was conceived from two fertilized eggs that combined to form one fetus.

“The most probably theory is that two fertilized eggs started developing and then merged in the womb to form a single fetus. This is called a chimera in the field of genetics and is very rare, though it is known in the animal kingdom,” Guðfinna Harpa Árnadóttir, a consultant at the Icelandic Agricultural Advisory Centre told RÚV. In short, chimeras have two sets of DNA, or the code required to make two distinct organisms.

A screenshot from RÚV. Helmingur has a horn on one side of his head but not the other.

Guðfinna says Helmingur will not be sent to slaughter this fall, but will become a subject of study instead. Experts are interested to find out whether he is fertile: his testicles, like the rest of his body, differ from one side to the other. “There is a possibility that sperm will come from two different testicles with different genetic characteristics,” Guðfinna Harpa stated.

A screenshot from RÚV.

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