Move over, Mary-Kate and Ashley. There’s a new and even cuter pair of twins in the world, and they each have four legs.
For what’s believed to be the first time ever, a pair of identically genetic puppies have been born in South Africa.
Dr. Kurt de Cramer, a veterinarian in Mogale City, has helped deliver hundreds of litters through Caesarean section — but this particular birth was much different.
The mother, an Irish Wolfhound, had a strange bulb by her uterus. At first Dr. Cramer thought it was just excess fluid around one of the puppies. He carefully made an incision and removed the puppy.
To his surprise, there were two male puppies inside the bulb, attached by their umbilical cords to one placenta.
“When I realized that the puppies were of the same gender and that they had very similar markings, I also immediately suspected that they might be identical twins having originated from the splitting of an embryo,” Cramer told BBC.
The other five puppies in the litter each had their own placenta.
Until now, only humans and nine-banded armadillos were known to be able to produce twins. To confirm that dogs can as well, Cramer sent blood samples from the twins, named Cullen and Romulus, to experts.
“The twins looked very similar,” Carolynne Joone of James Cook University in Australia told BBC. “But pups from the same litter often do, [and] there were small differences in the white markings on their paws, chests and the tips of their tails. I wasn’t sure they were monozygotic [identical] at all initially.”
DNA profiling of the blood samples showed that Cullen and Romulus are indeed identical twins. When the puppies were about six weeks old, samples of their tissue also confirmed it.
Are These the First Twin Puppies Ever Born?
This is a difficult question to answer. “There have been rumors about twins in dogs before,” Joone told BBC. “We just happened to be lucky enough to be able to confirm it genetically.
“It has taken so long for us to find a monozygotic pair, so they are probably rare. But so many of them will have been born naturally and blissfully unaware.”
Some animals, such as horses, have been known to have had identical twin fetuses that did not survive. When two fetuses share one placenta in a horse or most other animals, they don’t get enough nutrients and oxygen from the mother to stay alive. Cramer had previously seen two puppies sharing a placenta in 2014, but they had died before he performed a C-section on their mother.
Like human twins, Cullen and Romulus were a bit smaller than the other puppies when they were born, but have caught up to their littermates. Both are healthy and doing well, BBC reports.
Photos via YouTube