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Developmental Mechanisms

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.

Monozygotic twins (also called identical twins) arise from a single fertilized egg. At some point after the zygote begins to divide, the cell mass splits into two, creating two embryos from one. Monozygotic twinning Monozygotic, or identical, twins occur in one-quarter of one percent of all human births and begin life with the same set of genes. occurs in approximately 0.25 percent of human births. Monozygotic twins are always of the same sex. If the cell mass splits before about day five after fertilization, the two embryos will develop with separate placentas and separate amniotic sacs. This occurs in about two-thirds of human monozygotic twins. Between day five and about day nine, splitting leads to two amniotic sacs but one placenta. This occurs in about one-third of Monozygotic twins. Twins that split after day nine will share the amniotic sac. Splitting that late also increases the likelihood that the twins will not separate completely and will develop into conjoined (Siamese) twins.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 4Twins - Developmental Mechanisms, Monozygotic Versus Dizygotic Twins, Similarities And Differences Between Monozygotic Twins, Amazing Twin Similarities - Conclusion