During the evolution of multicellular eukaryotes, gene duplication occurs frequently to generate new genes and/or functions. A duplicated gene may have a similar function to its ancestral gene. Therefore, it may be expected that duplicated genes are less likely to be critical for the survival of an organism, since there are multiple copies of the gene rendering each individual copy redundant. In this study, we explored the developmental expression patterns of duplicate gene pairs and the relationship between development co-expression and phenotypes resulting from the knockout of duplicate genes in the mouse. We define genes that generate lethal phenotypes in single gene knockout experiments as essential genes. We found that duplicate gene pairs comprised of two essential genes tend to be expressed at different stages of development, compared to duplicate gene pairs with at least one non-essential member, showing that the timing of developmental expression affects the ability of one paralogue to compensate for the loss of the other. Gene essentiality, developmental expression and gene duplication are thus closely linked.