TAMPA - Some images of a two-headed alligator are creating quite a stir on Facebook and in the news media.
Justin Arnold claims to have snapped the photos along the Hillsborough River in the Tampa area of Florida.
In a Facebook post, he wrote:
"I was walking my dog yesterday and noticed a few people gathered by the Hillsborough river in Seminole Heights. When I went closer I was amazed to see this two headed alligator."
According to Florida Fish and Game officials, it has been reported by several people and they explained it as a failed separation of monozygotic twins and that it is common in reptiles.
Some are calling it Photoshop trickery. Others aren't so sure.
Arnold maintains a tumblr account where you can see other images, including a "fur bearing trout."
See it here: http://justinalanarnold.tumblr.com/
"Two-headed animals do exist on snakes and turtles and certain exotics," said Bob Potts of the Herp Hobby Shop in Oldsmar. "They are quite rare though."
Potts has been in the exotic reptile business for two decades and he knows that the double header – produced when a splitting embryo stops part way -- is a valuable find. But he is dubious, too.
"My only doubts are that for an animal to go undetected for so long is highly doubtful," he said
He thinks the pictures might be fake because the gator's feet are not quite touching the ground. And an odd position of its tail is another clue.
Sister-station WFTS called Florida Fish and Wildlife officials and area herpetology clubs who confirmed what Potts surmised.
"With today's social media, everybody's looking for their 15 minutes of fame, so it would not be beyond the reasonable doubt that somebody might try to pull off this hoax," he said.
Maybe that's why the photographer, Arnold, declined a WFTS request for an interview, preferring to "lay low" for a while.