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Doppelgängers can pass as identical twins even though they are not actual siblings.

Or are they?

A new study found that doppelgängers not only share similar looks but also the same genes and lifestyle traits, the Smithsonian Magazine reported.

A research team collaborated with Canadian photographer François Brunelle, who has been taking portraits of identical – and unrelated – people since 1999 as part of his “I’m not a look-alike!” project.

They used facial-recognition software on 32 pairs of Brunelle’s models to figure out how many facial similarities the pairs shared. When they compared the scores with those of identical twins, the software awarded twin-like scores to half of the doppelgänger pairs.

The team then took DNA samples from these 16 participants and were fascinated at the similarities: Nine of 16 very similar-looking pairs shared a lot of common genetic variations, making them “virtual twins,” according to co-author Manel Esteller.

Esteller and his colleagues noted that the identical pairs were more likely than non-doppelgängers to share characteristics, such as their weight, height, smoking history and education levels.

However, they added that there were some fundamental differences among the doppelgängers, including different epigenomes, which are variations in expressed traits influenced by the experiences of past generations.

From the standpoint of nature vs. nurture, this shows that DNA, rather than environmental influences or shared life experiences, is mostly responsible for the similarities in doppelgängers’ looks.

The authors explained that the findings could have far-reaching medical implications in the future: Because people with identical DNA may be equally prone to specific hereditary disorders, doctors might utilize facial analysis as a simple pre-screening method.

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