Superfecundation. This is not some word of the day that you are likely to see on Sesame Street. Rather, it is a word that describes a somewhat rare event in the natural procreative process of all mammals, including human beings. What it involves is a woman giving birth to twins by two fathers.
According to experts, superfecundation can occur under situations in which a woman has sex with one man, ovulates and then has sex with another man within less than a week. Because sperm viability can last up to five days, it's possible for two eggs to be fertilized by the separate doses of sperm.
Obviously, this kind of thing can present some unusual legal questions if it is found to be a contributing factor in a dispute over paternity and child support, as it did in one case recently. This drama didn't play out in Pennsylvania. It happened next door in New Jersey.
According to one report, the case came to the courts when a woman applied for public assistance. At first she told officials that her known romantic partner was the father. But in court actions that followed, the woman acknowledged that she had had sex with another unidentified man within a week of the first. DNA tests were ordered and the results, returned last fall, showed that the twin girls had different fathers.
Superfecundation is not unheard of, but it is not very common. According to one expert who testified in this case, paternity involving twins and separate fathers happens only once in about 13,000 natural pregnancies. Other experts say it has started to be seen more often with the expanding use of assisted reproduction techniques.
The implication in this instance is that the judge has ruled that the woman's romantic partner will be responsible for paying support for only the toddler that tests have proven to be his.
It's not clear from the report what steps officials plan to take to track down the father of the second child.