Twins are siblings carried together in the womb and born at the same time. Similarities and differences between twins can be used to answer questions about the role genes and the environment play in the development of traits such as personality, intelligence, and susceptibility to disease. While results from any single pair of twins cannot provide conclusive answers to such questions, the study of large numbers of twin pairs allows researchers to draw conclusions about inheritance with a significant degree of confidence.
Twins are classified as either dizygotic or monozygotic. Dizygotic twins (also called fraternal twins) arise from two separately fertilized eggs, or zygotes.
In humans, usually only one egg is released at a time from a woman’s ovaries. When two are released, both may become fertilized by separate sperm and implant in the uterus. Dizygotic twins develop separate placentas and amniotic sacs. They may be of the same or different sexes. In the absence of reproductive technology interventions, dizygotic twinning occurs in approximately three of every thousand human births, a rate that increases with maternal age, varies with ethnic group, and is probably influenced by genes that control pituitary function. Various types of assisted reproductive technologies routinely create dizygotic twins, triplets, and higher numbers of offspring.