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Wound, Not Mutation, Made Nebraska Trout Grow Two Mouths

A Nebraska-bred trout with two mouths grew them as a result of an injury, not a genetic mutation, says a Harvard researcher.

A muscle in the trout's mouth was severed in the past, causing thin membranes between the lower jaw bone and the floor of the mouth to split, the researcher said.

Clarence Olberding, 57, pulled the fish from Holmes Lake in Lincoln on Dec. 17. He cut off the head, shot a couple of photos and put both pieces of the fish in his freezer.

James Lee, a research fellow at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, contacted Olberding after the odd fish received national attention. Lee wanted to see whether the double jaw was from an injury or a genetic deformity.

The head of the 1-pound rainbow trout, which came from a Nebraska hatchery, was shipped off to Harvard for Lee to inspect.

The old injury gives the appearance of two jaws, Lee said, because the fish has no practical floor to its mouth. Despite the double mouth, Lee said, the trout appeared to be in good health and had been able to live, feed and grow to adult size.

Olberding said Wednesday that he was a little disappointed at the findings.

"I was hoping that there was something there genetically and it would open doors in new areas," Olberding said.

Since the famous catch, Olberding has had interviews with several radio stations, and even got a call from a radio station in the Netherlands. He also received a newspaper clipping that someone saw in Afghanistan that appeared in a "Stars and Stripes," a military newspaper.

"It's been a very interesting couple of months, and I had a lot of fun with it," Olberding said.

As for the famous fish, he said, it has gone to the right place.

"We ate it over the holidays," Olberding said. "A little Bud Light and smoked fish goes a long way."