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Are Identical Twins Really Identical?

Identical twins share the same DNA blueprint, making them remarkably similar, but they are not perfect copies. Subtle differences arise from unique environmental influences and random genetic mutations. So, while they start with the same genetic material, their individual experiences shape them into distinct personalities and can even affect their health in different ways. Curious about what sets them apart? Let's delve deeper.
Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Identical twins, also known as monozygotic twins, are born when a mother’s single fertilized egg is split into two parts after conception. Since they are formed from the same zygote, their DNA is almost indistinguishable. While these twins have the same basic genetic makeup, however, it is interesting to note that they do not have identical fingerprints. Since they are relatively rare, they often attract a great deal of curiosity. It is estimated that there are just 10 million pairs in the world, which means about 1 in 80 births is the result of a twin pregnancy.

Recently, researchers have also proven the existence of “semi-identical” twins, who are born when one egg is fertilized by two sperm before splitting into two parts. This results in twins that have identical genes from their mother, but different genes from their father’s side. This form of twin pregnancy is quite uncommon, however.

Twin boys.
Twin boys.

Although identical twins have many similarities, there are subtle differences. For example, many pairs have different weights or heights. This can happen as the result of dietary differences, serious illness, or a different connection to the placenta while the twins were still in the womb.

These twins also have personality differences as well. They may have different hobbies and interests, and one twin may be more outgoing, while the other is quiet and shy. In fact, some researchers believe that identical twins will take on the stereotypical birth order characteristics associated with first born and youngest children, despite the fact that they are usually born just minutes apart.

Twin girls.
Twin girls.

Parents of identical twins often contribute to the personality differences in their children. While it was once popular to dress them in matching outfits and treat them as part of a pair, many parents are now committed to helping their children develop strong individual identities. They encourage their twins to develop a close bond, but celebrate the characteristics that make each child unique.

Identical twins.
Identical twins.

If the differences between these twins are difficult to understand, people can think of them as two chocolate chip cookies made from the same recipe. Even though the same basic ingredients are used for the dough, it’s impossible to create two completely identical cookies. Subtle differences in size, color, and texture are simply inevitable since a cookie’s position in the oven will determine how evenly it is baked. In this way, both nature and nurture contribute to the differences.

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Dana holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She has loved being part of the AllTheScience team ever since discovering the joys of freelance writing after her son was born. Dana also hones her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs, as well as creating sales copy and content for e-courses.

Learn more...
Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Dana holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She has loved being part of the AllTheScience team ever since discovering the joys of freelance writing after her son was born. Dana also hones her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs, as well as creating sales copy and content for e-courses.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon33303

It is possible to have identical twins despite two placentas. If the egg splits during a specific time frame (during the 1st 8-10 days if I remember correctly from my sonographer)you can have identical dichorionic twins. Everyone keeps telling me my boys are ID & am seriously considering a Zygosity test now to confirm. I believe approximately 8% of all twins are ID dichorionic twins, so the consultants can be wrong!

hth

cindy96rn

Do identical twins always have the same amniotic sacs or do they at times have separate amniotic sacks? My dad is a twin and everyone cannot tell them apart, but my grandma's doctor said they were fraternal rather then identical because they had separate amniotic sacs.

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    • Twin boys.
      By: Papirazzi
      Twin boys.
    • Twin girls.
      By: Zdenka Darula
      Twin girls.
    • Identical twins.
      By: Monkey Business
      Identical twins.
    • Identical twins do not have identical fingerprints.
      By: Marina Krasnovid
      Identical twins do not have identical fingerprints.
    • A zygote splits into two to create identical twins.
      By: nobeastsofierce
      A zygote splits into two to create identical twins.