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?