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Question about identical twins

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
My sil has twin girls who have never looked identical. They have completely different faces, ears, hairlines. The only reason you would confuse them is because they have similar coloring, are dressed alike and the same size.

My question is this... can identical twins look different? I don't mean slightly different, as almost all sets of identical twins that I've known look slightly different. These girls just look completely different. One has features of one side of the family and one has features of the other, much like their two older siblings. I've read that theoretically identical twins can look different, but is this true in practice?

My nieces are 3 now and it's very apparent that being identical is very, very important to their parents for some reason. They go so far as to say how interesting it is that identical twins can look so different. We see them about 3 times a year and at every visit the parents are so emphatic about the girls being identical without anyone else raising the subject, that dh and I would never think of bringing up the subject with them. It's obvious that this holds some importance to them.

I'm asking for my own knowledge. Can identicals look totally different?

TIA!
post #2 of 33
What evidence do the parents have that the girls are identical?

The differences you describe certainly sound like things that MZ twins should have in common - I know my boys have identical hairlines, ears, noses, toes - even a rib that sticks out on one side (just like their Dad). They have minor differences - lots of people used to say that one had a fuller face than the other - but not a differently shaped face. One has a birthmark on his temple; the other has one on his tummy, but these are very minor differences. Their fingerprints are very similar (not exactly the same, of course, but they have whorls or swirls on the same fingers).
post #3 of 33
Thread Starter 
I don't really know what made them sieze on the idea that the girls are identical, but it's been this way from when sil was pregnant. I remember after they were born and my mil was describing how differently they looked, I innocently replied, "oh, so they're not identical". MIL just gave me this look like, "who am I to say?" which really confused me at the time. I think she already knew that it was an area not to tread on.

After seeing how incredibly important it is that these girls be identical to their parents, it wasn't something we ever questioned directly to them. It's like the white elephant in the middle of the room.

Last year they said they were going to send their cheek swabs away to see if the girls were in fact identical. Again, dh and I didn't know what to say as it seems very obvious that they're not identical. Then when they supposedly got the results back they made a big deal of saying that the girls were indeed identical. Dh's response to me was, "that sure was a waste of money!"

Given how very different the girls look, I'm just curious if this is possible. I feel somewhat crazy asking this as I'm not sure if I've entered this weird state of altered reality as well. I mean, identical means identical, right? And as a disclaimer, I know about 8 sets of identical twins and none of them are exactly identical, one seems to have more refined features than the other, but there are days when I could confuse one for the other. These twins I see only a few times a year and have absolutely no difficulty differentiating, entirely different faces.

So, can identical twins not be identical?
post #4 of 33
Field researchers trying to determine whether twins are potentially identical or not check hairlines, noses, jawlines and the shapes of ears. If those points don't match, you can rule out identical. (No link for this, sorry, I remember it from my one unpleasant day as the subject of such research.)
post #5 of 33
Lots of factors can come into play. My MZ girls -- who shared a placenta -- have differently shaped heads -- one was under my rib cage for about four months, and it affects their face structure, fullness, etc. now, even four years later

Also, if they shared a placenta, one might have gotten more nutrients than the other and that could have an effect. My girls did not have TTTS, but one was 11 ounces bigger at birth (which is a big deal for 5ish pound babes), had more hair (and still has fuller hair), and continues to be a bit bigger than her sister.

Is their hair color the same? Eye color?

You could ask the mom in a way looking for information -- something like "I ran into some ID twins and their mom said her girls shared a placenta... but not all twins do, she said. I didn't know that. Did your share a placenta? When did you learn they were ID?" or some other way -- not saying "you people are nuts for thinking they're MZ" but more seeking info.

I think it *is* possible for MZ twins to have quite a few differences (from the mom of MZ girls who have quite a few differences. But hair color, eye color, eye shape, build, nose, ears, etc are all quite identical...)
post #6 of 33
Hmmm, I don't know about your question, but...

Maybe you can help be a voice of reason/good influence & whenever you are around the girls, treat them as individuals. I think that twins are neat, but I don't think that treating them as one entity is neat or fair to the children. It's obvious that not all parents feel this way, but I often hear from grown-up twins that it is important to place emphasis on the individuality of the child (and then they tell me stories of being dressed alike or having to do things together all the time, etc., and how they wish it had been otherwise). Society is going to view twins as a unit, so I'm not sure that a parent does children any favors adding fuel to the twin fire by regularly dressing them alike or always mentioning that they are twins (ID or otherwise).

So, I guess my advice to you would be to try to leave the debate behind (it seems like you likely wouldn't get very far with your SIL anyway, KWIM?) and instead focus on what you can do to honor the girls as individuals. The girls are going to need a voice of reason somewhere when they grow old enough to realize that they may not, in fact, be ID twins.
post #7 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by kjoy2 View Post
Hmmm, I don't know about your question, but...

Maybe you can help be a voice of reason/good influence & whenever you are around the girls, treat them as individuals. I think that twins are neat, but I don't think that treating them as one entity is neat or fair to the children. It's obvious that not all parents feel this way, but I often hear from grown-up twins that it is important to place emphasis on the individuality of the child (and then they tell me stories of being dressed alike or having to do things together all the time, etc., and how they wish it had been otherwise). Society is going to view twins as a unit, so I'm not sure that a parent does children any favors adding fuel to the twin fire by regularly dressing them alike or always mentioning that they are twins (ID or otherwise).

So, I guess my advice to you would be to try to leave the debate behind (it seems like you likely wouldn't get very far with your SIL anyway, KWIM?) and instead focus on what you can do to honor the girls as individuals. The girls are going to need a voice of reason somewhere when they grow old enough to realize that they may not, in fact, be ID twins.
Great advice! You are wise Kjoy
post #8 of 33
Hope it's ok that I post in here - I don't have twins myself, but I've been a nanny to two sets - one set of identical girls, one set of non-identical boys.

Based upon what you have written, I doubt that they are genetically identical. The identical girls I looked after have minor differences - one has a slightly slimmer face (she was the first born, perhaps that's why?), one is slightly taller, one has a little birthmark near her eye. Those differences aside, it's very difficult to tell them apart unless you're around them all the time. These are the kinds of minor differences I would expect. I wouldn't expect major differences like what you have described.

I suppose anything's possible, but it sounds like the most likely explanation is that your SIL has become attached to the idea of them being identical and is having trouble letting it go.
post #9 of 33
Yes, it's entirely possible:

Twin info (even mentions boy/girl MZ twins)

I don't have twins, but one of my good friends in high school was a MZ twin who looked nothing like his brother. Different eye color, height, build, hair color, etc. They didn't even look like brothers, let alone identical twins. I remember him telling me how rare it was.
post #10 of 33
Awhile ago I saw a photo on another website that someone had posted of her MZ twins, and they did not look identical at all. Different heights & everything. I thought they were fraternal, but she knew they are MZ and had tested them.

That aside, your SIL sounds like she's putting a lot on this "identicals" thing. Who knows why that is so important to her, but it's not necessarily a good thing even if they are MZ twins. I feel bad for the girls as they try to find and assert their individuality. How well will their differences be tolerated? How much of a mold is she going to try to push them into? MZ twins can have different interests and personalities, but how well is that going to go over in that family?
post #11 of 33
kjoy2 hit on what I thought - Why is it so important that they are identical???????? Yes its a wonderful miracle when they ARE from the same zygote, but honestly - once it splits, they are TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE!

I'd do as kjoy2 said - forget the focus on identical and make those girls feel as individual as you can whenever you DO see them.
post #12 of 33
My college level biology is a bit rusty, but per my reading the author is describing genetically abnormal sets of MZ twins. It doesn't sound like the OP's nieces are genetically abnormal.

They don't sound like MZ twins to me, either. There was a twin mama in my mother of twins club who had MZ twins, one of whom had severe visual problems and needed glasses as an infant. She was told that their uterine environment was different and that can have an effect on the expression of genes.

I think kjoy's advice was good, but if you really want to delve deeper, I think the advice to ask for info for a friend who was confused about zygosity if a good idea. I wonder why they're so invested in their children being MZ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SAHDS View Post
Yes, it's entirely possible:

Twin info (even mentions boy/girl MZ twins)

I don't have twins, but one of my good friends in high school was a MZ twin who looked nothing like his brother. Different eye color, height, build, hair color, etc. They didn't even look like brothers, let alone identical twins. I remember him telling me how rare it was.
post #13 of 33
What about their hair/eye color? Do you happen to know their blood type and if they are the same?

My girls are di/di ID and one pulls more from my side and the other from her father's side. Granted, most people can't tell them apart but to me and those close to them, they do look different. Baby A has a round face (like me) and K has an oval face (like her daddy) K has my feet, A has her dad's, K's hair is longer and staighter and A's is shorter and curlier, A has a "dent" in her chin (like me) and K doesn't. Minor differences but still different. At birth, they looked so much alike that the only way I could tell them apart was A had a birth mark on her stomach.

I almost hate to say this but....the reason why they might be so obessed with the ID thing is that for some reason, society accepts ID's more then frats. We have actually been asked if our girls were ID and when we said yes their response was "oh so they are real twins?" wtf?? For some weird reason, people think ID twins are "real" and frats are I don't know...I think they are : but just something I've noticed in the 3 years I've had ID twins.
post #14 of 33
when we were in the nicu the head nurse was telling me how many twin parents that came through and thought that identical twins are the only true twins- which of course is bs. so maybe she has that ridiculous idea in her head!
post #15 of 33
I just went and read your reply, angie. JINX!
post #16 of 33
Gosh, I just don't understand this obsession with ID twins. To be honest, I was completely disappointed when I learned (through DNA swabs) that ours were identical...and the fact that at 5 months old I still CAN'T TELL THEM APART is driving me crazy I mean, really, who wants to go through life always corrrecting the people around you, 'no, I'm xxx, not xxxx'

I agree with PP that focusing on the girls as individuals is more imporant than anything else.
post #17 of 33
Thread Starter 
Thank you all so much for your caring replies. SAHDS, thanks for the link. I think I had found something similar to this that states that it's theoretically possible to have non-identical MZ twins, but I was wondering if that ever really happens in practice.

These girls have completely different features. Their hair is the same color, but their older siblings had the same hair color at the same age. I don't know about their blood type as I don't think it's been typed. That's been the one thing that I felt would easily dispell this identical thing if in fact it isn't true. I guess, knowing what they look like I just can't believe (nor anyone I know who I can talk with about this) that they're identical.

As someone else mentioned, one girl resembles one side of the family and one the other. Only in this case, they are so different that one has very big, floppy ears that stick out and the other doesn't. One has a pointed chin, the other doesn't. They just look completely different aside from the hair color. I feel it would be the same as seeing my two dds at the same age. Only alike because of the same coloring and size.

I've also heard your words of wisdom regarding interacting with the two girls. Interestingly, they both refer to themselves as one of their names, ex. Sarah. If you ask where Sarah is, they both point to themselves, as if the other name doesn't exist. I've heard the parents use both names, but the whole thing just fits in with this weird vibe.

Dh and I always use their names and play with them along with their older siblings and our children. Their parents aren't big on interacting with any of the kids, but do refer to the girls as a unit many times. They're either the twins or the babies.

I know that I wouldn't enjoy being mistaken for my sibling, but I think because the girls look so different, they make it a point to dress them the same and do their hair the same to heighten the confusion. As if, the more people who confuse them, the more true it will mean that they are MZ. My step-sister had red hair with very fair skin, I have black hair with olive skin, we wore the same glasses and people would say we looked so alike. Of course, these people at the time (100 years ago, lol) didn't understand that being step-siblings we didn't share any blood. I think these parents are so focused on the identical element that they're willing to do anything to push that. I don't think they're thinking about the girls' perspective at all. Just how "cool" it is for them. And I agree, they think that MZ twins are way more desirable than fraternal.

I also tend to think that the lab work, if it was done, wasn't reputable and that they just seized onto this idea during her pregnancy and won't let go. I just can't believe that they are some 1 in a million type MZ twins that look nothing alike. But, that's why I came here to post. I wanted to see how common it is to have MZ twins that don't look alike. It doesn't sound very common at all.

Thanks again for all your help and concern.
post #18 of 33
It sounds to me like they're dizygotic.

I don't get why some people obsess so much over MZ twins, either. My younger sisters are MZ, and when they were little, they looked, well, identical. My mom painted R's toenail and kept it painted until she was sure she could tell them apart. It helped that one sucked her thumb and the other her middle fingers.

We always treated them like individuals, though. My mom might get two of the same outfit, but usually in two different colors. They did have some matching dresses my grandma sewed, but usually with a complimentary dress for me, too. Dressing alike was a special occasion thing.

I ran into these girls in college who ALWAYS dressed alike. They must have gone to some trouble, too, because they wore different sizes, one girl probably had 20lbs. on the other. They shared a dorm room and took all the same classes. My sisters were only dressed and schooled together when we went to a private school, and that was only because we wore uniforms and had only one classroom for 1st-12th! In public school they were always in different classrooms, and for a while were even in different grades.

Sometimes they'd get referred to as "the twins", just as the lot of us might be referred to as "the kids", but more often as "D&R" (their first names strung together like it was one word). I just don't get the whole treating-twins-as-one-person thing. It's kind of creepy.
post #19 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by SuzyQ2+2 View Post
Gosh, I just don't understand this obsession with ID twins. To be honest, I was completely disappointed when I learned (through DNA swabs) that ours were identical...and the fact that at 5 months old I still CAN'T TELL THEM APART is driving me crazy I mean, really, who wants to go through life always corrrecting the people around you, 'no, I'm xxx, not xxxx'

I agree with PP that focusing on the girls as individuals is more imporant than anything else.
Our boys are MZ, and definitely look a lot alike, but one was born with long hair and the other almost bald (we could tell them apart in the dark!). When they hit about 8 months, and the bald one had grown enough hair for his brother to grab (of course B started out with enough), we gave them buzz cuts, to protect them both from ruthless hair-pulling. It took a while for us to figure out who was who, because we had been relying on the hair for so long to tell them apart, and hadn't concentrated on other distinguishing features.

That's when we started to color code their clothes: blue for B, every other color for J. It was easy to find blue clothes, and easy to remember - even people who only saw them rarely could remember the "Blue for B" rule.

Now that they are older (14), they wear their hair differently and dress differently. They HATE to be in the same class in school. But they have the same interests and the same friends.
post #20 of 33
it seems like it would be a relief to be able to say what you're thinking to them - i bet the whole family might appreciate it if you can get away with it; without being jilted totally
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