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Identical Twins

"Distinguishing between identical and fraternal twins"

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Identical Twins

I graduated from college in nineteen sixty six with a degree in biological sciences, and certified to teach science in grades seven through twelve. Jobs were plentiful and I was soon hired to teach at a small high school in Western North Carolina. This was perfect as the school was in the same part of the Appalachian region where I had graduated from high school only a few years earlier. The students were the kind of people I had associated with all my life, so I felt comfortable and very secure in my new position.

In this small high school I was also given coaching duties, and even though I had seen only one basketball game in the past four years, I was named the boys varsity and junior varsity basketball coach. I am glad this was before Title IX or I might have also been the girls coach.

Now to my first year teaching school, I taught Biology, Physical Science, and Chemistry, in addition to my duties as varsity and junior varsity basketball coach. Regardless, I entered this first year of teaching and coaching determined to be successful.

During a tenth grade biology class on genetics, I was attempting to explain the difference, genetically, between identical and fraternal twins. I spelled out that fraternal twins occur when the mother has two eggs that are fertilized at the same time. I further clarified, “They can be boy/boy, girl/girl or boy/girl. Identical twins occur when the egg splits into two embryos after it has been fertilized. Identical twins have to be of the same sex; boy/boy or girl/girl. They are alike (identical) in every way.” On the chalkboard I diagramed the egg being fertilized, dividing, and developing into two separate, but identical individuals.

As I furthered explained, answered questions, and clarified that sometimes fraternal twins, at birth, might seem identical, but even though they may look identical, they will develop into no more than siblings, each with his/her on characteristics. I explained that identical twins are alike in every way. I explain that even their genetic materials are identical.

Breeze told me that she had a twin brother, and asked if they were identical. “No, breeze, identical twins are identical in every way, and since your brother is a male and you are a female you are not identical,” I stated.

Next, Rebecca asked, “A friend of my mother has twins, both boys, but one is tall and the other is short. Are they considered identical?” I again emphasized that to be identical they had to be identical in every way.

As we covered seemingly every conceivable situation, I noticed one of my basketball players, Johnny, was beginning to look interested, sitting up straight, pulling his long legs out of the aisle, and since he usually didn’t show much interest I was thinking, I have gotten Johnny’s attention. He raised his hand and said, “Mr. Pipes, my aunt has identical twins, and she can give one a laxative and it will work ‘em both.”

Johnny’s word “work” was an Appalachian term for going to the bathroom.

William Pipes
917 Upper Peachtree Road
Murphy, NC 28906

Written by William
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