In 1875, Sir Francis Galton was the first to propose that by comparing the concordance of a specific trait or disorder in monozygotic (MZ) twins (assumed to be genetically identical) and dizygotic (DZ) twins (which were assumed to be as similar or as different as any other pair of sibs), it would be possible to distinguish between environmental and heritable effects. DZ twins are derived from the fertilization of two eggs by two sperm. MZ twins are the result of the fertilization of one egg by one sperm that then divides to form two embryos.
Genetic research has made amazing progress since 1875. Advances in molecular DNA techniques and developmental genetics have made it possible to differentiate unequivocally between MZ and DZ twins [1, 14]. It is in this new light that this manuscript will review the recent knowledge about twins and the twinning process.
The incidence of DZ twins differs between population [11, 18]. A DZ twin birth in North America is estimated to occur 9–11 times in every 1000 live births or 1 in 100 births; i.e. 1 in every 50 people is a DZ twin.
The DZ twinning rate is closely related to maternal age, parity, height, weight and gonadotropin levels. An increased DZ twinning rate is seen with increasing maternal age and peaks around 35–39 years; higher parity is also associated with a higher DZ twinning rate . Tall heavy women are more likely to give birth to DZ twins than short thin women. A higher incidence of DZ twins has also been reported with the use of new reproductive techniques.