Lucy Aylmer is pale-skinned with red hair and freckles. Maria Aylmer is black with dark, curly hair. Looking at these two girls you’d be floored to learn they’re sisters — let alone twins. But that’s exactly what these 18-year-old British girls are, and their story has now made international headlines.
Our fascination with twins stretches way back to ancient Rome (Castor and Pollux, anyone?) and well beyond. Think you know everything about these extra special siblings?
We sort of bet you don’t know all 15 of these fascinating facts.
15 totally fascinating facts about twins
The fraternityMaria and Lucy are fraternal twins – the type that occurs when two separate eggs are fertilized during conception. As a result their genes are as distinct as any other siblings. And they can look very, very different. Universal
Double TakeFraternal twins can also sometimes look like identical twins, as happens to be the case of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. Years ago, doctors used to assume twins were fraternal or identical based on their looks alone. (Science has since changed that.)Getty
Double TroubleIdentical twins are formed when one embryo splits in two. Although these types of twinsies share the same DNA and usually look similar, they don’t always look alike. If one twin has better a better connection to the placenta, for instance, that twin could end up bigger and stronger. NBC
On the ButtonThe easiest way to distinguish identical twins is to look to their belly buttons, since naval shape depends on how the umbilical cord was cut and tied, and even the same doctor using the same technique will produce variations. Getty
Double ThinkPop culture is filled with stories of twin telepathy. But conjoined twins Krista and Tatiana Hogan share the same brain and can hear each other’s thoughts, experience each other’s sensations, and see through each other’s eyes. The seven-year-old Vernon, BC twins, pictured here as infants, are a source of wonder to neurologists. CP
The OddsToday’s would-be moms are far more likely to birth twins than in the past. Why? The miracle of fertility drugs, coupled with women waiting until later on in life to get pregnant (once you hit 35 years old your ovaries sometimes release more than one egg per cycle).TLC
Double CrossedWorried your evil twin’s identical DNA could frame you for a crime? While that is technically possible, new tests identify tiny mutations in twin DNA to determine whodunnit. And if that doesn’t work, good old-fashioned fingerprints will -- positioning in the uterus, pressure and amniotic fluid determine final fingerprints shape. Identical twins’ prints are similar, with slight distinctions.YouTube
Two of a KindTwins can have loads in common, even if they’ve never met. Jim Lewis and Jim Springer share more than a first name. Separated at birth and adopted by different families, both Jims owned dogs named Toy, had divorced a Linda then married a Betty, and had sons named James Alan and James Allan. Lewis became a security guard and Springer a deputy sheriff. The brothers met in 1979 after 39 years’ separation. Disney
Geographic LocationWestern and Central Africa have long been the world’s most prolific twin producers, while Asia and Latin America have been the least. But reproductive technology is changing everything. Between 1991 and 2009, for instance, multiple births in Canada increased by 50 per cent.Getty
Frozen in timeThanks to technology, twins can now be born years apart. Siblings Rueben and Floren Blake were conceived in the same batch of embryos in 2005. Reuben was born in 2006 via IVF, while the remaining eggs were frozen for future use. Floren, Reuben’s genetic twin, was born a full five years later.CP
Mirror imagesUp to a quarter of identical twins are “mirror twins,” asymmetrical copies of each other. Scientists believe mirror twins happen when an embryo splits a bit later on in the pregnancy. In that case, one twin is usually right-handed and the other left, and freckles and birthmarks appear on the opposite sides. In other words, it really is like looking into a mirror! The Chive
Learning the LingoIt’s true, twins really do understand each other’s gibberish. Scientists have confirmed twins can develop their own secret languages, a phenomenon they call cryptophasia. In a fascinating twist, researchers say all cryptophasic languages follow the same structure.Warner Bros.
LongevityMothers of twins may have double the workload, but there’s a payoff, and it’s not just extra cuddles – twin moms live longer, too. But before you rush out for fertility meds, it’s not that having twins makes moms healthier, but that being healthier makes them more likely to have twins (and to live longer). Sorry. ABC
Who's Your Daddy?It’s hard to believe, but twins can actually have different fathers. Nope, it’s not just a quirk of genetic engineering, either. Superfecundation is what happens when two eggs are fertilized within the same ovulation period by different fathers. It’s a common phenomenon among dogs, while BabyCentre.com reports roughly 1 in 400 fraternal twins are “biparental.”Disney
Together ForeverThe world’s oldest living identical twins, Florence Davies and Glenys Thomas, still live next door to each other, in the same rest home in England. They recently celebrated their 103rd birthday. Says Thomas’ daughter, Stacey, “They were always happiest when they were together.” Fox