Fun Facts About Twins

Here are 9 interesting facts about twins and DNA.

Casey Randall Alphabiolabs

By Casey Randall, Head of Genetics at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 11/09/2023

An introduction to twins

Whether or not twins are identical depends on how the babies were formed. Non-identical twins (also known as fraternal twins) are the result of separate fertilized eggs. Non-identical twins are no more alike than any other brothers or sisters, and may be both male, both female, or one of each. Non-identical twins share DNA in common, as in the case of siblings from different births.

Identical twins are formed from a single fertilized egg, which went on to split into separate embryos. This means that their DNA is exactly the same.

Twin testing, also known as Zygosity testing, is used to determine whether multiple children from the same birth are genetically identical or not. This twin DNA test only needs cheek (buccal) cells so samples can be easily and painlessly collected.

Order a Zygosity Twin DNA Test Online

1. Twins are becoming more common

The number of multiple births is increasing. In 2016, 131,723 mothers gave birth to twins, which equates to 33.4 out of every 1000 women giving birth. Whereas in 1980, the twin birth rate was only 18.9 out of every 1000 women giving birth.

African–American women are more likely to have twins than any other race. Asian and Native Americans have the lowest rates of twins.

2. Identical twins don’t run in families

There’s no evidence that being from a family with identical multiples has any impact on the odds of having identical twins. Identical twins do not run in families and appear to be a random occurrence.

Related: Do Twins Run in Families?

3. However — non-identical twins do run in families

Research has found that having non-identical (fraternal) twins in a mother’s immediate family may double the chances of conceiving non-identical twins. This is because a certain gene predisposes some women to hyperovulation where more than one egg is released during each menstrual cycle.

Non-identical twins are more common: two-thirds of all twins are non-identical and one-third are identical.

Order a Twin Zygosity DNA Test Online

4. Twins really do skip a generation

The myth about twins skipping a generation is actually based on some truth. If a son inherits the hyperovulation gene from his mother (see #3), he may pass this gene on to his daughter. His daughter, in turn, is then more likely to release more than one egg when she ovulates and therefore could conceive non-identical twins. The twins have therefore skipped a generation.

5. Twins could have different dads

This sounds bizarre but can occur due to a medical phenomenon known as superfetation. It occurs when a pregnant woman continues to ovulate and releases an egg a few weeks into her pregnancy. The second egg is fertilized, and the woman is then pregnant with two babies simultaneously.

Usually, when a woman becomes pregnant, several biological processes happen to prevent her from getting pregnant a second time. Hormones are released that halt ovulation, a ‘mucus plug’ develops in the cervix to prevent sperm from traveling to the uterus, and the lining of the uterus changes, making it hard for another embryo to implant.

Superfetation may go undetected because the two fetuses being so close in age may be considered twins. It is extremely rare in humans but is claimed to be more prevalent in animals such as rodents, rabbits, horses, and sheep.

6. Twins are more common in certain countries

High rates of twins are found throughout Central Africa. With 27.9 twins per 1000 births (2.8%), Benin has the highest national average.

On the other hand, the twinning rate in Asia and Latin America is very low: often less than 8–10 per 1000 births (0.8–1%).

7. Mirror twins have reverse asymmetric features

Mirror image twins account for about 25% of all identical twins. In these rare cases, identical twins develop directly facing each other, meaning they become exact reflections of one another. If one twin is right handed the other twin is left handed, they may have birthmarks on opposite sides of their body and can even have hair that whorls in reverse directions.

Mirror image twins are thought to occur when the twins split from one fertilized egg later than usual. This can be over a week up to 12 days after conception and the two identical halves develop into separate individuals who are genetically identical. A fertilized egg that splits after 12 days would likely result in conjoined twins.

Read: Identical vs Fraternal Twins

8. Tall women are more likely to have twins

Taller women apparently have more insulin-like growth factor (IGF): a protein that is released from the liver to stimulate growth in the shaft of longer bones. Higher levels of IGF results in increased sensitivity of the ovaries, thus increasing a woman’s chance of ovulating. According to Dr Gary Steinman, an attending physician at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, the more IGF a woman has, the greater chance she has of becoming pregnant with twins, because IGF “governs the rate of spontaneous twinning”. In a previous study, Dr Steinman also found that women who eat dairy are five times more likely to have twins. This has been put down to levels of IGF in cow’s milk.

9. Twins have a secret language

A phenomenon known as cryptophasia (from the Greek for ‘secret’ and ‘speech’) describes a language developed by twins in early childhood which only they understand. Cryptophasia is thought to occur in up to 50% of identical or non-identical twins.

The secret language is more common among twins because the babies learn how to speak a real language alongside one another and naturally often play and communicate with each other. Also, twins are more likely to be around each other and developing at the same rate; although the phenomenon can also sporadically occur between two babies who are not twins. The language consists of inverted words and onomatopoeic expressions, and often disappears soon after childhood once the children have learned a real language.


Casey Randall AlphaBiolabs

Casey Randall

Head of Genetics at AlphaBiolabs
Casey joined AlphaBiolabs in 2012 and heads up both the Genetics and Health testing teams. An expert in DNA analysis and a member of the International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG), Casey holds an MS degree in DNA Profiling and a BS degree in Forensic Science. Casey is responsible for maintaining the highest quality testing standards, as well as looking for ways to further enhance the service that AlphaBiolabs provides and exploring new and innovative techniques in DNA analysis.

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