Brazil town’s Nazi twin mystery solved

A sign outside the village of Candido Godoi in southern Brazil identifies the place by the nickname Terra dos Gêmeos, or Land of Twins.

A group of Brazilian scientists have ended decades of speculation about why a small town in Southern Brazil has so many twins, the New York Times reports. People in the village of Candido Godoi had said there might be something in the water that made more than 10 percent of pregnancies there result in twins. (Around 1 percent of pregnancies produce twins in the rest of Brazil.) Others wondered if something more sinister was afoot:

The notorious Nazi physician Josef Mengele famously fled to this part of Brazil after World War II, and some said he travelled the region in the 1960s posing as a veterinarian. Some village residents speculated that Mengele had conducted medical experiments on the townsfolk, and the high rate of twinning was the result.

But, after studying 30 families in the village since 2009, Brazilian geneticist Ursula Matte says the phenomenon has a simpler explanation. A gene linked with twinning occurs at a much higher rate in the village than it does elsewhere. This concentration within the town, which was settled by a small group of German-speaking immigrants, has been compounded by decades of intermarriage.

‘Times correspondent Alexei Barrionuevo has more details in a story datelined, weirdly, out of Chile.