Something unusual is happening on this mountain lion’s head.
The photo, which turned up in a Reddit forum without much context or information, appears to show a cat with a second mouth growing just beneath an ear. According to Amy Rodrigues, a biologist with the Mountain Lion Foundation, the growth is likely a teratoma, which is a tumor that can contain hair, teeth, and bone — that, or the extra “mouth” is really remnants of non-developed twin attached in utero.
Although two-headed animals or animals with extra limbs are rare and observed only in domestic breeds, there have been some popular documented cases. “In the wild, any mutation that makes it more difficult to catch prey or out run predators usually means an early death,” Rodrigues says. “Because they don’t survive long, these individuals are not commonly seen by people nor do they live long enough to potentially pass on any mutation genes.”
Because of the nature of this mountain lion’s deformity, he might have actually survived (had a human not interfered) because he was still able to catch prey. It’s a shame he was killed, considering the potential for research and the threats American lions face simply from the existence of people and our roads.