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period, the two ovaries acting alternately. Occasionally two ova are
matured at once. If fecundation occurs, the result will be a development
of two embryos at the same time. In rare cases, three or even four ova
are matured at once, and by fecundation produce a corresponding number
of embryos. As many as five children have been born alive at one birth,
but have not lived more than a few minutes.
The occurrence of multiple pregnancies may be explained by the
supposition that ova matured subsequent to the first fecundation are
In lower animals, the uterus is often divided into two long segments
which afford room for the development of a number of young at once.
Some ancient writers make most absurd statements with regard to the
fecundity of females. One declares that the simultaneous birth of seven
or eight infants by the same mother was an ordinary occurrence with
Egyptian women! Other statements still more extravagant are made by
writers. For example: A traveler in the seventeenth century wrote that
he saw, in the year 1630, in a church near the Hague, a tablet on which
was an inscription stating that a certain noted countess gave birth
at once, in the year 1276, to 365 infants, who were all baptized and
christened, the males being all called John, and the females, Elizabeth.
They all died on the day of their birth, with their mother, according
to the account, and were buried in the church, where a tablet was erected
to their memory.
Monsters.--Defects and abnormalities in the development of the embryon
produce all degrees of deviation from the typical human form. Excessive
development may result in an extra finger or toe, or in the production
of some peculiar excrescence. Deficiency of development may produce
all degrees of abnormality from the simple harelip to the most frightful
deficiency, as the absence of a limb, or even of a head. It is in this
manner that those unfortunate individuals known as hermaphrodites are
formed. An excessive development of some parts of the female generative
organs gives them a great degree of similarity to the external organs
of the male. A deficient development of the male organs renders them
very similar in form to those of the female. Redundant development of
the sexual organism sometimes results in the development of both kinds
of organs in the same individual in a state more or less complete. Cases
have occurred in which it has become necessary, for legal purposes,
to decide respecting the sex of an individual suffering from defective
development, and it has sometimes been exceedingly difficult to decide
in a given case whether the individual was male or female.
Such curious cases as the Carolina twins and Chang and Eng were formerly
supposed to be the result of the union of two separate individuals.
It is now believed that they are developed from a single ovum. It has
been observed that the primitive trace--described in a previous
section--sometimes undergoes partial division longitudinally. If it
splits a little at the anterior end, the individual will have a single
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