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Secular Changes of Twinning Rates in Nordic Populations*

  • A. W. Eriksson (a1), C. Abbott (a2), P. J. Kostense (a3) and J. O. Fellman (a1)

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In each species, natural selection has resulted in an optimal litter size, to ensure the largest average number of surviving offspring and the lowest maternal mortality. The terrestrial insectivores from which the primates evolved had large litters. It has been argued that in primates adaptation to an arboreal mode of life led to a reduction of litter size to a single offspring because of the difficulty of producting and caring for a large litter in a tree [6]. A recent critical survey of the literature indicates that twinning frequency in most nonhuman primates is lower than in man [20].

There are clear ethnogeographic differences in the incidence of human twinning. Among peoples of Eastern Asia, multiple maternities are rare; in Japan for instance, the twinning rate is only 3-7 per mill, according both to the official statistics and hospital records. These low rates seem not to be caused by the facts that it is customary in Japan to have children very early in life or that twin births were at one time viewed with displeasure and concealed, or sometimes twins were even killed in some areas [21].

In hospital series among some Negro tribes almost 10 times higher twinning frequencies than among Japanese have been reported e.g. the Yorubas in western Nigeria with values above 60 per mill [24]. However, where national birth statistics of Blacks are available, twinning is lower, e.g. in U.S.A. 13-15 per mill [1].

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Footnotes

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Proceedings of the Second Seminar of Nordic Physical Anthropology, 1990 published under the title “Populations of the Nordic countries. Human population biology from the present to Mesolithic”. Institute of Archeology - Lund University - Sandgatan 1 S-22350 Lund - Sweden.

Footnotes

References

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1. Allen, G (1987): The non-decline in U.S. twin birth rates, 1964-1983. Acta Genet Med Gemellol 36: 313323.
2. Boklage, CE (1987): The organization of the oocyte and embryogenesis in twinning and fusion malformations. Acta Genet Med Gemellol 36: 421431.
3. Bonnelykke, B (1990): Maternal height and weight and human twinning. Biol Soc 7: 2329.
4. Bonnevie, K, Sverdrup, A (1926): Hereditary predispositions to dizygotic twinbirths in Norwegian peasant families. J Genet 16: 125188.
5. Bressers, WMA, Eriksson, AW, Kostense, PJ, Parisi, P (1987): Increasing trend in the monozygotic twinning rate. Acta Genet Med Gemellol 36: 397408.
6. Bulmer, MG (1970): The Biology of Twinning in Man. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford and London.
7. Dorothy, JDH, Lancaster, PAL (1986): The secular trend of twinning in Australia, 1853-1982. Acta Genet Med Gemellol 35: 6176.
8. Elwood, JM (1983): The end of the drop in twinning rates? Lancet: 1470.
9. Eriksson, A (1962): Variations in the human twinning rate. Acta Genet Stat Med 12: 242250.
10. Eriksson, AW (1964): Pituitary gonadotrophin and dizygotic twinning. Lancet 2: 12981299.
11. Eriksson, AW, Fellman, JO (1967): Twinning and legitimacy. Hereditas 57: 395402.
12. Eriksson, AW, Fellman, JO (1967): Twinning in relation to the marital status of the mother. Acta Genet (Basel) 17: 385398.
13. Eriksson, AW (1973): Human twinning in and around the Åland Islands. Commentationes Biologicae 64: 1159.
14. Eriksson, AW, Fellman, JO (1967): Differences in the twinning trends between Finns and Swedes. Amer J Hum Genet 25: 141151.
15. Eriksson, AW, Eskola, MR, Fellman, JO (1976): Retrospective studies on the twinning rate in Scandinavia. Acta Genet Med Gemellol 25: 2935.
16. Eriksson, AW, Bressers, WMA, Kostense, PJ, Pitkänen, KJ, Mielke, JH, Jorde, LB, Tas, RFJ, Fellman, JO (1988): Twinning rate in Scandinavia, Germany and the Netherlands during years of privation. Acta Genet Med Gemellol 37: 277297.
17. Fellman, JO, Eriksson, AW, (1987): Statistical models for the twinning rate. Acta Genet Med Gemellol 36: 297312.
18. Fellman, JO, Eriksson, AW (1990): Standardization of the twinning rate. Hum Biol 62: 803816.
19. Frykman, J (1977) Horan i bondesamhället. With a summary in English: Whores in peasant society. Academic dissertation, University of Lund: 1237.
20. Geissman, T (1989): Multiple Births in Catarrhine Monkeys and Apes. Il Sedicesimo, Firenze.
21. Imaizumi, Y, Inouye, E (1984): Multiple birth rates in Japan: further analysis. Acta Genet Med Gemellol 33: 107114.
22. James, WH (1982): Second survey of secular trends in twinning rates. J Biosoc Sci 14: 481497.
23. Landy, HJ, Keith, L, Keith, D (1982): The vanishing twin. Acta Genet Med Gemellol 31: 179194.
24. Little, J, Thompson, B (1988): Descriptive epidemiology. In MacGillivray, I; Campbell, DM, Thompson, B (Eds): Twinning and Twins: 3666. John Wiley & Sons Ltd., Chichester.
25. Nielsen, J, Homma, A, Isaksen, B, Bertelsen, A (1978): Incidence of twin births in Denmark from 1911 to 1974. Acta Genet Med Gemellol 27: 4549.
26. Norio, R (1981): Diseases of Finland and Scandinavia – In Rothschild, HD (Ed): Biocultural Aspects of Disease: 359415. Academic Press, New York.
27. Olsen, J, Knudsen, LB (1986): Twinning rates by residence in Denmark 1978 to 1982. Scand J Soc Med 14: 147150.
28. Parisi, P, Caperna, G (1981): The changing incidence of twinning: one century of Italian statistics. Prog Clin Biol Res 69:35.
29. Pitkänen, K (1984): The educated people: the precursors of the fertility transition in Finland. Scand Population Studies 62: 1532.
30. Rachootin, P (1983): The end of the decline in twinning rates? Scand J Soc Med 11: 119.
31. Rachootin, P, Olsen, J (1980): Secular changes in the twinning rate in Denmark 1931 to 1977. Scand J Soc Med 8: 8994.
32. Torgersen, J (1951): Hereditary and environmental factors in twinning. Am J Phys Anthrop 9: 441454.

Secular Changes of Twinning Rates in Nordic Populations*

  • A. W. Eriksson (a1), C. Abbott (a2), P. J. Kostense (a3) and J. O. Fellman (a1)

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