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Extremely rare Vietnamese twins have same mother, but different fathers, DNA test shows

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Twins continue to serve as medical anomalies that defy the biological truths we’ve come to hold as inflexible. Cue the news this morning that a Vietnamese set of twins have been confirmed as having two different fathers. It’s truly Hollywood-script-worthy.
According to the BBC, a local geneticist has confirmed that the twins have different fathers. Professor Le Dinh Luong, president of the Hanoi-based Vietnam Genetic Association which did the DNA testing, explained to the BBC that the results were “100% correct” in this ” extremely rare case.”
The twin has always been a focal point of both medicinal and cultural studies. From the 17th century portrait of The Cholmondeley Ladies that hangs in the Tate, to Hitler’s macabre experimentations on identical sets of siblings in the 1940s, to Lindsey Lohan’s breakthrough role in The Parent Trap, we have remained fascinated by the phenomenon of the multiple-child pregnancy. I can vouch for this because I myself am a twin.
“Can you read each other’s minds?” “Do you feel his pain?” “Are you identical?” Here are a small collection of absurd questions I’m frequently asked about by brother, who happens to also be my twin. I don’t mind people asking questions about us. I would ask questions too; my twin Max, who is ginger (I’m brunette), 6ft4 (I’m 5ft3) and pale (I am olive skinned) looks nothing like me. We even went as Danny De Vito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins to a fancy dress party.
If my twin Max and I come under such scrutiny, I can only image what the twins in Vietnam are in for. Especially when, as Professor Luong puts it, “there are only less than 10 known cases of twins with different fathers in the world.” There might be other cases, we’re told, but the parents or the twins were either not aware of it or didn’t want to announce it.
“The occurrence is known as heteropaternal superfecundation,” continues Luong, “and is more common in litters of cats and dogs than humans.”
To break it down; “superfecundation” refers to the fertilisation of multiple eggs from separate acts of intercourse, and “heteropaternal” means they are fertilised by more than one father. If a woman produces multiple eggs in one ovulation period and they are fertilised by different men within a few days, the process can happen. Last year, a set of New Jersey twin girls with different fathers was the third case ever confirmed in US history.
If you think that’s mind boggling, in 1979 the American professor Thomas J. Bouchard came across identical twins who were separated at birth, adopted by different sets of parents, and went on to lead “identical lives”. Both were named Jim, both were adopted by families living in Ohio, both had childhood dogs they named “Toy.” Both were married twice — first to women named Linda, and then to women named Betty. Both had children, including sons named James Allen.
In January of this year, American twins, born just minutes apart, will forever have their birthdays in different years. And there was also a set of British twins born with different coloured skin. Despite the one in a million chances, Hannah Yarker 20, and her partner Kyle Armstrong, 24, had one white twin and one black twin.
When you take these anomalies into account, maybe the casting of De Vito and Schwarzenegger as bi-paternal twins doesn’t seem so ludicrous after all.

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