ST. LOUIS – Officials of the World Aquarium at the City Museum in St. Louis subscribe wholeheartedly to the maxim that two heads are better than one.
If they're on the same animal, that is.
Aquarium officials hope an exhibit that opens next week and runs through Sept. 5 will prompt the creation of a Guinness World Record for the most two-headed animals on display.
So far, the aquarium has lined up 10 two-headed snakes and turtles, including "We," the aquarium's rare albino two-headed rat snake.
The other nine animals are owned by Fred Lally of West Fork, Ark.
If a local reptile dealer with a two-headed snake adds his to the exhibit, the head count would rise to 22.
"It should be a huge two-headed party," aquarium president Leonard Sonnenschein said Tuesday.
Sonnenschein hopes two of the guests will hit it off. He would like to mate one of Lally's snakes, a two-headed albino rat snake named "Golden Girls," with We.
"There are no guarantees," he said, "but it's very likely these two could mate and have babies."
The aquarium has been trying to breed We since failing to sell the snake online in January. Officials had hoped it would bring $150,000, but there were no bidders and two subsequent offers were under $50,000.
There's a big hitch, though: Officials aren't sure whether We is male, female or a bit of both.
Sonnenschein believes the snake could be hermaphroditic, with two snakes sharing one body. However, a surgical procedure earlier this year found that We could be female.
Sonnenschein said Golden Girls is thicker, leading to speculation that it could be male.
Even if the exhibit fails to produce another two-headed snake, Sonnenschein said Guinness is interested in the proposal and has created a category dubbed "Largest Exhibit of Two-Headed Animals."
Lally wouldn't mind being part of a record-breaking exhibit, either.
That would boost the prestige of his own collection, which besides Golden Girls also includes a two-headed western diamondback rattlesnake named "Double Trouble" and seven two-headed red ear slider turtles: Wild Ones, Ms. Hazel, Zip & Pip, Lyndon, Crooked Shell, Short Neck and Baby Gill.
Lally and his wife usually display the animals at fairs and festivals, but a world record could mean a chance to move out of the summer heat and into cooler surroundings.
"I'd much rather make up [a display] that could go inside malls," he said.