September 28th, 2011

Twins under the skin

James and Daniel Kelly are fraternal twins, two handsome young men who live in England. Unlike identical twins, fraternal twins are genetically no more similar than any two siblings of the same parents; they just happen to be the result of the release of two eggs in one ovulation cycle, both of which manage to win the conception sweepstakes and be fertilized and then born.

James and Daniel Kelly, however, look a bit more different than most fraternal twins of the same sex, because one of the characteristics on which they vary is a trait into which we usually put of lot of meaning, that of skin color:

James and Daniel are different in other ways, as fraternal twins often are. James (the darker twin) is gay, outgoing, and an excellent student. Daniel is heterosexual, shy, and more inclined to non-academic pursuits. Strangely enough, it’s Daniel who’s received more of the racial taunts throughout his school life, mostly from confused fellow-students who learn of his ancestry (white mother, black Jamaican father) and see his brother and get angry at Daniel for trying to “pass.”

But how is it that this could happen, biologically speaking? As the article makes clear, a Jamaican would be very likely to have quite a few genes for white or light skin color, and these could end up being expressed in some of that person’s children. It usually doesn’t happen in as dramatic a way as with the Kelly twins. But it can certainly happen with siblings, and does with a certain amount of regularity.

One of the little-known facts about race and fraternal twins is that there’s another way to get a birth in which one twin appears black and one white: if a woman has sex with two men, one black and one white, in fairly close temporal proximity to each other, and she happens to be releasing more than one egg. In a case such as that, if both eggs are fertilized during the same cycle but there are two different fathers, you can get a situation like this.

This was not the case with the Kellys, where the twins have only one father—nor with the Hodgsons, a couple in which both mother and father are of mixed-race parentage, and who had these adorable female fraternal twins:

And this one may just blow your mind—the Durrant-Spooners.

Yes, you saw that right: two sets of fraternal twins with different racial characteristics. Isn’t nature amazing?

28 Responses to “Twins under the skin”

  1. Promethea Says:

    These photos all prove why Affirmative Action is so stupid.

  2. Artfldgr Says:

    Isn’t nature amazing?

    Of course…

  3. Artfldgr Says:

    I should also point out that most modern racism, isnt even real…

    so the amazement we have at that couple, is silly… Anyone remember Othello?

    its only where its shaken up and played with by politically destabilizing practices of state that people care much…

    everywhere i have ever traveled or been which was away from that influence, people tended to like the differences, were curious, happy, talkative, wanted to compare, and so on…



    the norm is NOT race hatred…

    so they are only amazing to people who grew up in a box who were told the world was a certain way…

    despite the bad people, the world is actually a very nice place among humans for the most part…

    sad to think that we think otherwise…

  4. Mark in Spokane Says:

    My father-in-law is Chamorro (the indigenous natives on Guam). The Chamorros were colonized by Spain for 400 years, and most people on the island who are Chamorro have Spanish blood as well. My father-in-law’s father was nicknamed “Blanco” by his family because he was white in complexion, even though both of his parents were typically Chamorro in terms of their physical features. My father-in-law has cousins who are also very light-skinned, and others who are dark-skinned but have green eyes, etc.

  5. Parker Says:

    “Strangely enough, it’s Daniel who’s received more of the racial taunts throughout his school life, mostly from confused fellow-students who learn of his ancestry (white mother, black Jamaican father) and see his brother and get angry at Daniel for trying to “pass.””

    I think it is not so strange at all. I have few black friends or neighbors but from my limited experience I have found that many darker pigmented blacks resent light skinned blacks.

    “despite the bad people, the world is actually a very nice place among humans for the most part…

    sad to think that we think otherwise…”

    Yes. We’re all human on the inside. We bleed, we bruise, we do terrible things to one another, we do wonderful things for one another, we laugh, and we find joy. Despite all the troubles and sorrows of the day life is a glorious experience. At least here in Iowa. :-)

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    Parker: except that in this case the “white” twin was picked on by white kids, not blacks.

  7. Ramy Says:

    Wow – I remember when the Kelly twins were born – I’m happy to see the follow-up!

  8. SteveH Says:

    How the heck are we supposed to hate people in whole swaths if we can’t even identify their heritage? Bigotry is getting to be a very inefficient pastime.

  9. renminbi Says:

    A lot of people make a good living race hustling. Where would Jesse Jackson,Sharpton or the Congressional Black Caucus be without it?

  10. Scott Says:

    Ny niece gave birth to quads, two boys and two girls, in July 2009. One of the little boys sadly died after two days, but the three survivors appear to be growing up healthy with no problems.

    Anyway, one of the little girls looks alot like her mother when she was 2 years old: blonde, extremely curly hair and blue eyes. The little boy has brown hair, wavy but not curly hair, and brown eyes. The other little girl’s hair is not quite blonde and not quite brown, and not nearly as curly as her sister’s hair. She also has blue eyes, but a slightly different hue than her sister’s.

    All their personalities are different. One of the girls almost never cries or gets upset, but the little boy has a bit of temper. My niece told me on the phone the other day that the other little girl appears to be the “leader” of the three.

    In the first picture they sent me after their birth the father had slid his wedding ring up the smallest baby’s leg. Now, over two years later, that one is the biggest of the three.

    Yes, nature is amazing.

  11. Steve Ducharme Says:

    Thanks for this. I had my ten year old read it. What an excellent illustration of the stupidity of racism.

  12. Parker Says:

    “.. except that in this case the “white” twin was picked on by white kids, not blacks.”

    I am unable to grok this. Strange indeed.

  13. Robert Oculus Says:


  14. Jim Sullivan Says:

    My twins look nothing alike. My daughter looks dark irish like myself (the poor, poor girl). My son is tall and brawny and blond like his german relatives. They don’t even look like siblings, at least not to my eye.

  15. Trebuchet Says:

    And God said to the Arch Angel Michael, “Let’s see how they handle this”.

  16. Gringo Says:

    Regarding the variability of fraternal twins, I am reminded of an example from my childhood. One twin was a star student who became a math professor. The other twin was an indifferent student who became a truck driver.

  17. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Is this not an example of the very large role that genetics plays in each person’s makeup? The incidences of not only looking different but having distinctly different personalities reminds me of the assertions of Steven Pinker’s book, “THE BLANK SLATE.” Pinker believes that our personalities are pretty much set by our genes and can only be modified somewhat by our upbringing. The old nature versus nurture argument. Much to the chagrin of the progressives who like to believe that, given control of the system, they can shape each person into a volk for the collective. Such variations in appearances and personalities is what wrecks their plans on the shores of reality. However, they keep trying.

  18. ErisGuy Says:

    Isn’t ‘fraternal twins of different fathers’ the stuff of Maury Povich’s dramatic DNA revelations?

  19. SteveH Says:

    J.J. the progressives play both sides of that coin. That genetics is a dominant factor is why they think a merit based economy is a conspiracy against the stupid and lazy.

  20. neo-neocon Says:

    ErisGuy: the paragraph where I describe the “twins of different fathers” phenomenon provides a link to an article about the Povich show.

  21. Libby Says:

    It’s not the case of twins, but my WASPy brother (brown hair, brown eyes) and his Indian wife have two daughters. The older is a miniature of her mother, while the younger is the spitting image of her paternal great grandmother – including pale skin and blue eyes. Kinda freaked out the family (especially the relatives in India) for the first year. However, they’re both a delightful combination of both parents’ personalities.

  22. Sergey Says:

    There are some not directly obvious conclusions that these pairs of twins suggest. First, these racial traits demonstrate Mendelian inheritance pattern, that is, they are inherited largerly independently from other traits. This is not true for majority of other genes, whose expression is mediated and influenced by a lot of other genes as well. Second, alleles coding negroid racial type are dominant, while alleles coding europeoid racial type are recessive (should be inherited from both parents to be expressed). And third, the genes coding racial traits are strongly coupled, that is, are sitting closely to each other on chromosomes, so usually are inherited as a single block: dark skin strongly correlates statistically with other negroid traits such as curly hair, puffy lips, wide nose and several cranial traits.

  23. Sergey Says:

    This reminds me a wonderful novel by Shirley Ann Grau “The Keepers of the House”, the whole intrigue of which is based on secret marriage of a rich white landowner and a black servant of him, who one after another give birth to perfectly white-looking boys and has to sent them from rural South to the North, where they can make good carers as whites.

  24. DNW Says:

    Interesting. Cute kids, as you say.

    The boy’s physiognomies are somewhat different, as well as their skin tones. The “whiter” looking twin probably having what are usually thought of as white features to a greater extent than his brother. Close cropped hair can either accentuate or diminish an appearance of difference.

    Those who were in say, high school or college during the 20 years or so when long hair was more or less an acceptable fashion, will recollect how differences were sometimes accentuated as hair grew longer; and you, say, discovered that your formerly close cropped brown head grew out lank and much lighter reddish almost blondish hair while your similarly brown headed Italian childhood buddy now walked around with what looked to all appearances like a natural “afro”.

    Short story on looks.

    After graduating from college, I moved to Houston Texas during that “Urban Cowboy” era. (By the way “Gilley’s” was everything they said it was)

    There, I developed friendly relations with an older guy who worked as a mechanic in our machinery warehouse, and with whom I dealt on an almost daily basis.

    He wanted to show me an A-frame his pal was selling on a lake north of town, and invited me to meet him at his house for the drive there, in about a week.

    A day or two before the agreed day, he got my attention and called me over to the lathe he was working on.

    “I got to tell you something, that I think you should know before you meet my family.”

    Ok … what?

    “I’m black”

    I started laughing … not knowing on what level the joke was supposed to work … but, knowing that he was definitely not a racist, thinking it funny whether aimed at me or as just a comment on southern society or whatever.

    But he said he was serious. After I got done wisecracking and getting another affirmation that he was indeed serious, I settled down and asked him two questions, one somewhat defensive of my young liberal credentials and other, intellectual.

    “Ok, well, first, why did you think it would matter, and second, how in the world do you even know you are “black”? Is your mother or father obviously “black” looking?”

    The answers were “Well, it matters to some people and I like to get it out in the open”, and “No my parents look like me.”

    Turns out that he was from North Carolina, and from an area where he said these white-black people predominated. None of whom were from, he said, obviously bi-racial families. He was not “white looking” in the sense of the kid on the right above looking “white”. He was, of medium height, stocky, lank straight brown haired, light eyed, with a short projecting nose, and a line of a mouth.

    In other words he didn’t look like a green-eyed black girl, with curly tan hair and a very light toffee complexion, but prosaically, mundanely, non-ethnically, non-exotically, run-of-the-mill white.

    After quizzing him more about his grandparents and other ancestors, I finally said … “Ok … then again, how in the world do you even know that you are ‘black’”?

    His shrugging answer was that regarding his “people”, in the area he came from, that: “we just always followed the blacks”.

    A tradition of identification, in other words.

    My own guess is, that however “his people” had gotten their looks, if they were indeed “black” at some point, it was not recently enough for natural variation to continue to provide any obvious back references or expressions.

    He however, had married an obviously black woman, and his son looked a great deal like her and nothing at all like him.

    He was a good and generous guy. Had the same last name as a famous TV comedienne from the 1970′s – should anyone reading this be from N.C. and think they recognize the family group, but wonder if it’s possibly the same folks.

    One other thing. Anyone who has recently read of the plight of helpless African albinos can hardly fail to be freshly moved to deplore the situation of anyone being exploited or harmed because their skin tone.

    Except when it comes to the Dutch, of course.

  25. Artfldgr Says:

    Not voting for a black man (Obama) is racist but voting for a black man (Cain) is racist. so said garafolo and others…

  26. Brad Says:

    Hmm. This can get more interesting when you add in mosaicism and chimericism:

    This has caused some mothers to be accused of cheating or nearly lose their kids.

  27. Double Vision: The Most Fascinating Post Today | FavStocks Says:

    [...] Check out neo-neocon’s discovery and exposition today HERE. [...]

  28. Jimbo Says:

    I have fraternal twin sons. My wife and I are white but she is lighter and taller than me. The boys are so different that kids at their high school are shocked to discover that they are even related. One is taller and has brown eyes and the other has green eyes. They have different abilities and often fight but also are good friends. Sometimes they remind me of history’s most famous fraternal twins who were very different – Essau and Jacob!

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