Identical twins, (practically) identical lives

By Melanie Gunderson ’19

When she talked about her childhood, one Pacific Lutheran University junior used plural terms: ‘we did this’ or ‘this happened to us.’ She did this because she has an identical twin who, from the womb to university, has lead a life nearly identical to her own.

marisol pic.jpg

Mariana Navarro, left, hugging Marisol Navarro, right, before Marisol Navarro left to study away in Oaxaca, Mexico. Photo courtesy of the Navarro family.

Marisol Navarro, 21, may be known on campus for her involvement in Residential Life and Admissions, but in her hometown, Canby, Ore., she is known as one of the twins.


Marisol Navarro said that she and her twin sister, Mariana Navarro, were unusual from the start. The two were monoamniotic identical twins, meaning that they shared an amniotic sac and a placenta in the womb. According to Stanford Medicine, less than one percent of all U.S. twin pregnancies are of this nature, and about 20 percent of twins die from the condition. But the Navarro twins beat the odds.

Even their striking green eyes were due to a recessive trait.

“It’s a weird combination, especially to have two [of them],” Marisol Navarro said.


Mariana Navarro, left, and Marisol Navarro, right, can barely be told apart as young girls, even by close friends.  Photo courtesy of the Navarro family.

The study of twins remains a fairly controversial field of psychological study, and major findings about twins with similar personalities have been attributed to either nature or nurture. While some researchers have found that similar traits are predominantly due to genetics, others have found that their cultivation depends heavily upon the environment in which they grew up. In Marisol and Mariana Navarro’s case, the question was not about either/or, but rather a curious combination of both.


Growing up, the Navarro twins were practically inseparable. Marisol Navarro said she has always been able to share everything with her twin sister.

“She’s family, but she’s also my best friend,” Marisol Navarro said.

They shared common interests throughout their childhood and adolescence, and took the same classes in high school. They even share the same initials, M.X.N. On paper, the twins could have easily appeared to be the same person.


Mariana Navarro, left, and Marisol Navarro, right look into distance as camp counselors at Camp Kiwanilong in Warrenton, Ore. Photo courtesy of the Navarro family.

That isn’t to say that Marisol Navarro and Mariana Navarro were the exact same. But Marisol Navarro said they had to take special precautions to prove this. This was especially pertinent when they both applied to colleges.

“We just wanted to make sure that people knew that we were different,” Marisol Navarro said.


Marisol Navarro said that both she and her twin sister knew that their split was inevitable, and they took action to facilitate their separation.  The Navarro twins each decided to attend different universities.  Marisol Navarro committed to Pacific Lutheran University, and Mariana Navarro committed to Willamette University in Salem, Ore.

Without her sister by her side, Marisol Navarro said that her college decision has helped her become more independent.

“Coming to school made me realize how important it was to be Marisol and not just one of the twins,” Marisol Navarro said.

Marisol Navarro said that she and Mariana Navarro often visit each other and are still a part of each other’s lives at school. For those close to them, the Navarro twins are a two-for-one package deal. One of Marisol Navarro’s closest friends at PLU, Paige Lilly, 20, said that after meeting Mariana Navarro she could see the differences and the similarities between the two.

“I noticed a lot of Marisol in Mariana,” Lilly said.


Although they aren’t both involved in the same on-campus extracurricular activities, they do still have one thing in common. Marisol Navarro and Mariana Navarro both study the same things: Chemistry with a Biochemistry emphasis and Hispanic Studies/Spanish.

Their similar academic interests echo findings on identical twin similarity. Identical twins, even those reared separately, were more likely to choose similar professions than fraternal twins.  Though nature and nurture both play their roles in personality development, identical twins like Marisol and Mariana Navarro could demonstrate how much of our futures depend on our genetics.


In the future, Marisol Navarro said that she could see herself reaching a happy medium between dependence and independence upon her twin sister.

“[Being a twin] made me dependent upon her, but it also really made me who I am,” Marisol Navarro said.

Marisol Navarro and Mariana Navarro are both headed to University of Southern California this summer for a research internship. Marisol Navarro interned at USC in 2016, and said she was excited to return with her twin sister in tow.

As for the Navarro twins’ pursuits beyond USC, their futures may be written in their DNA.

Categories: Other

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