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KatawaGrey's avatar

Is it possible that identical twins are genetically superior beings?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21433points) July 26th, 2010

The other day, I was hanging out with a couple friends of mine who happen to be identical twins. As they are the only pair of identical twins I know who do not feel some animosity towards each other I know a lot of unhappy twins I will sometimes ask them questions about being identical twins. The conversation turned to genetics, as it often does, and one thing we were wondering about is whether or not identical twins are genetically superior.

It makes a certain amount of sense to me because the human body can abort a zygote or fetus that is “defective” so why not copy a fertilized egg that is superior? That way, if one of the people dies, there is still someone with the exact same superior genetic makeup out there and if both survive, there is twice as much superior genetic material as there would be otherwise.

I realize this is not necessarily an accurate hypothesis, just a musing from me and my friends, but I wanted to ask the question here to see if the collective thought it had any merit.

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15 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Sometimes I wonder the same. As the stepmother of twins I find it remarkable how in sync they are – like a sixth sense that is definitely unique to twins. Makes you curious.

wundayatta's avatar

Your hypothesis depends on the ability of the body to “copy” an embryo. It further depends on the premise that a body can know what is superior and what isn’t. Last time I looked, bodies weren’t any better prognosticators than the lady who reads your palm.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@wundayatta: But the female body often knows when a zygote is defective, as I pointed out, and thus will abort it. I just wondered if perhaps the reverse was true, especially considering the egg is not passive in conception. Perhaps the egg “knows” that this sperm is vastly more superior than the others and thus splits immediately after implantation. What also makes me wonder this is that my friends told me that identical twins are not actually determined by genetics, unlike fraternal twins. This could be wrong, of course, but I trust their judgment seeing as they are closer to expert status on identical twins than I am. Also, their father is a doctor so the general medical knowledge of the family is less suspect than, say, mine. :)

tinyfaery's avatar

My cousins are identical twins and at 42 their bodies are already falling apart. They are not particularly smart, talented or otherwise superior. I’m not sure about your theory…

KatawaGrey's avatar

@tinyfaery: Ah, but are they falling apart because of stuff they’ve done to their bodies or because they’re just falling apart? ;P

Yeah, you’re probably right, but I’m still feeling kinda clever for thinking of it.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

The factors that contribute to the probability of homozygous twins are independent of those that contribute to superior physical or mental abilities.

Yes, non-viable foetuses result in natural termination of pregnancies but there is no kind of scoring of a foetus’s potential contributions that influences the likelihood of homozygous twinning.

There are identical twins who are average, below average, and above average just as is true for the births of heterozygous twins and singletons.

It is a sweet idea that you wondered about but it has no basis is science and is not biologically possible.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence: Well, that makes sense. Oh well, it was a nice thought. I guess my friends are just smarter than god because that’s just the way they are. :)

wundayatta's avatar

It “knows?” Think, @KatawaGrey. There are how many billion different ways of combining genes? And there is some natural mechanism at the cellular level that predicts the ”“superiority” of any one combination? And superior by what standard? Does the body have a standard for superiority? If so, surely it is due to the genetic imperatives of several hundred thousand years ago. It could hardly know what is superior now, since no one has ever encountered these environmental conditions before.

zophu's avatar

My younger brothers are identical twins. I don’t know about genetic superiority, but there are social benefits for being twins. Especially in a fragmented society where it can be unlikely for most people to form many long-lasting close friendships in childhood. They always have each other to fall back on in adversities big and small. Imagine, never being alone; not once in your life. I envy them.

Twins are also attractive to people, not just for their mystique, but because of their inherent social value. You have a good chance of getting a two-for-one friendship. Even if my brothers were a little socially awkward, (which they aren’t,) I think they wouldn’t have too much trouble fitting in.

It isn’t a bad hypothesis, that identical twins are generally genetically superior. I’ve done absolutely no research on the subject, but I guessed that a fertilized egg might be triggered to split by some signal from the mother’s body if conditions seemed to be abundant enough for a litter of two.

As a young child, when my mom was pregnant with my brothers, I apparently prophesied that they would be twins before anyone else knew in a creepy way and put up a fight when my parents told me they weren’t. Maybe there’s something to the whole psychic twin thing. Would lend to the genetic superiority hypothesis. But there’s probably not that much to it. Twins are probably just significant for the social aspects, not that that is anything to shrug off.

whitenoise's avatar

My two boys (identical twins, seven years old) are definitely not genetically superior, but they are still the most beautiful creatures of the world. I realize that my vision is tainted.

They do get along, by the way.

Interesting to know that there seems to be no significant difference in IQ between twins and the rest of the population. That is, they score significantly lower in their childhood years and then get back on par with the rest of us.

Other research seems to show a positive correlation between IQ and genetic quality.

So in any case this ‘evidence’ seems to suggest that even though they do seem to form one of nature’s little miracles, they are not genetically superior.

The explanation for the initial lower IQ scores seems to be that twins are more focussed on each other than the rest of us and that none of them are the oldest or single child. They always share the attention of their parents.

faye's avatar

I don’t think our body knows an embryo is defective. I think the baby’s condition is incompatible with life. If our bodies knew there shouldn’t be any wildly deformed children living in pain. But if I was a twin I’d root for your idea.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Yes. I’m planning on having myself cloned just so I can be superior too.

Keeping up with the Jones’s is the American way… is it not?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@KatawaGrey I first saw your question and thought what? But I like the angle you are working. I’d like to see some more on this. Why would the egg split instead of dividing like it normally does. And someone wondered how the body knows to eliminate a defective embryo. Last figure I saw was somewhere around 60 percent of embryos are destroyed by the immune system because they are recognized as deffective.

mattbrowne's avatar

From an evolutionary standpoint your hypothesis doesn’t make sense. Twin pregnancies carry a risk that is several times higher than for normal pregnancies. Worldwide the likelihood of identical twins is about 4 in 1000. It is low, because it protects the mother who will then be able to give birth to more children helping the survival of homo sapiens as a species. Multiple births are common in smaller mammals, such as domestic cats and dogs. Humans and other large mammals, however, ordinarily give birth to only one. The likelihood for fraternal twins is influenced by a genetic disposition and it varies from region to region. In America and Europe the likelihood is about 12 in 1000 while in many Asian countries it’s only 1 in 1000. A tribe in Nigeria holds the record with about 46 fraternal twin pregnancies per 1000.

snowberry's avatar

I have identical twins, and they are best friends in every sense of the word. They say they are like two sides of the same coin. If you were to ask me or any of their friends you’d always get the same answer: They are definitely superior in every way!

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