She's her own twin
Taylor Muhl carries two sets of DNA—it's akin to being two separate people. Muhl's rare condition comes from her absorbing her fraternal twin in the womb. Known as chimerism, the phenomenon helps explain why Muhl is plagued by an autoimmune condition: She has two immune systems and two bloodstreams, and her body rejects her twin's DNA as an invader. This has led to severe allergies her whole life; it also explains the unique birthmark that divides her abdomen at the midline, coloring the right side of her body. "I felt freedom [after the diagnosis] because for the first time in my life I knew why my stomach looks the way it does," Muhl told People. Check out these fascinating facts about twins.
Her hero turned out to be her sister
Jen Bricker may not have had any legs when she was adopted as a young child from an orphanage in Romania, but she had more than enough spirit—so much so that she was drawn to gymnastics despite her disability. Her goal was to be like her idol, Olympic gold gymnast Dominique Moceanu. Bricker eventually turned that spirit into a career as an award-winning tumbler and aerialist. But her focus on Moceanu may have been more than gymnastics: In 2003, Bricker discovered that Moceanu was actually her biological sister. Her birth parents were both Olympic gymnasts. Since then, Bricker, Moceanu and a third sister, Christina, have all connected.
Being identical is more than skin deep
In 1979, when identical twins Jim Springer and Jim Lewis finally met at the age of 39, they didn't just have the same first name: Their wives had the same name, and so did their childhood dogs. Coincidence? Perhaps, but that wasn't all. They also shared tension headaches, a nail-biting habit, and an addiction to Salem cigarettes. Each drove Chevy's and liked to frequent the same sandy beach in Florida.
"Genes can help explain why someone is gay or straight, religious or not, brainy or not, and even whether they're likely to develop gum disease," one psychologist explained to Live Science. (Both brothers were part of the Minnesota Twin Family Study, which studied 137 pairs of separated twins over a 20-year period.)
Switched at birth
Alice Collins Plebuch signed up for a DNA test expecting it to confirm her Irish roots—only to discover she was half Jewish, reports the Washington Post. Her parents were Irish, she knew: Had her mother had an affair?
Her mother had not, but her father Jim Collins wasn't who he thought he was. Jim was born on September 23, 1913, at Fordham Hospital, when hospitals had yet to implement ID bracelets for babies. Jim was sent home with Irish parents, while Phillip Benson—born on the same day at Fordham—went home with Jewish parents. No one questioned why Jim only grew to be about 5'4" when his brother was 6'; Phillip reached 6' 4".
The mystery was finally solved when Phillip's granddaughter, Jessica Benson, got DNA test results revealing she was related to Alice. Jim and Phillip had been switched at birth.
Born so her sister could live
In 1990, sixteen years after their first daughter was born, Mary and Abraham Ayala gave birth to another baby girl for one reason: so the new baby could be a bone marrow donor for her 16-year-old sister Anissa—and, hopefully, save Anissa's life. Anissa was battling leukemia, and her parents had exhausted all other options.
Marissa arrived and she was a match: The bone marrow donation worked and Anissa is still healthy today. The Ayala family now hopes their story will raise awareness about the need for bone marrow donations. Upon graduating from Cal State Long Beach in 2013, Marissa told The Press-Telegram: "I couldn't be happier and I'm making my own goals and setting my own aspirations. And, yes, even though I saved my sister's life and I'm so happy that she's here with us today, I have a separate life besides this story."
The other Hilton sisters
This predates Paris and Nicky: Daisy and Violet were conjoined twins born in 1908. The birth mother didn't want the girls, and they ended up with midwife Mary Hilton, though Hilton's motives were less than pure: The Charlotte Observer reports that Hilton purchased the girls as a sideshow for the bar she owned with her husband. Eventually, the Hiltons taught the girls to perform on Vaudeville, and they gained fame—even doing an act with a young Bob Hope—but no fortune, as the family pocketed all the twin's earnings. Eventually, Daisy and Violet sued for their independence and earnings, and ended up spending the rest of their days in Charlotte, North Carolina, "working side-by-side in the produce department of the Park-N-Shop on Wilkinson Boulevard." Both died of influenza in 1968 and were buried together in a single person casket.
The most intricate sibling separation
When the embryo of identical twins fails to completely divide, conjoined twins are the result. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, one in about every 200,000 births has a chance at being conjoined, but only 2 percent are of the rarest form: Craniopagus twins are connected at the head. When expectant mother Heather Delaney was diagnosed with craniopagus twins, she knew the outlook would be grim. However, the Washington Post reported, a team of medical professionals at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia were able to separate the twins, the first ever case of craniopagus twins that the hospital had to separate in over 60 years.
"During the separation surgery, our team first meticulously separated the infants' shared blood vessels and dura, the tough protective membrane surrounding both brains, then moved on to separate the sagittal sinus, the most difficult portion of the operation," stated Gregory Heuer, the neurosurgeon. "Finally, we divided our team into two halves, one for each of the girls, and finished the reconstruction portion of the surgery."
Erin and Abby are doing well, though they may need additional surgery as they grow.
Siblings reunite at work
Co-workers Gary Nisbit and Randy Joubert ended up having a lot more in common than delivering furniture, reports AP News. Gary had worked for the furniture company for seven years when new hire Randy showed up. Customers told them they looked alike, but it wasn't until about a month of driving around in a delivery truck together that Gary finally asked his new co-worker if by any chance he was adopted, and the pieces began to fall into place. Randy was adopted, and he turned out to be the younger brother Gary had been searching for. The brothers had grown up in the same county and attended rival high schools. The media attention led to another benefit: Their half-sister, Joanne Campbell, was able to find her brothers.
He carried his twin for nearly four decades
A man in India was carrying his twin inside of him for 36 years, reports ABC News. He always had a very large belly but it wasn't until he could barely breathe that his medical condition became grave. He was rushed to the hospital where he was thought to have a huge tumor. Instead, surgeons pulled a strange, half-formed human out of the man's stomach with fully developed feet and hands, and even long fingernails.
It's called fetus in fetu, an extremely rare condition where one fetus wraps around the other. Usually, both babies die in utero, but not this time. "To my surprise and horror, I could shake hands with somebody inside," said the surgeon who operated. "It was a bit shocking for me."
Here are some of the strangest facts about the human body you never knew.
Same mom, totally unrelated
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
It's called superfetation, a very rare medical condition, but it can really happen. A woman acting as a surrogate was implanted with an embryo. A few weeks later, she became pregnant on her own with her partner. Normally, basic biology wouldn't allow this to occur, but sometimes a woman can continue to ovulate and a second pregnancy results. In this case, the twins were completely unrelated, but researchers speculate that some fraternal twins may also be the result of superfetation.