An individual's ancestral background can be determined based on their fingerprint characteristics, according to a new research that may have applications in law enforcement and anthropological research.
An individual’s ancestral background can be determined based on their fingerprint characteristics, according to a new research that may have applications in law enforcement and anthropological research.
Anthropologists have looked at fingerprints for years, because they are interested in human variation. But the new research has looked at Level 1 details, such as pattern types and ridge counts.
Forensic fingerprint analysis, which is used in criminal justice contexts, looks at Level 2 details – the more specific variations, such as bifurcations, where a fingerprint ridge splits.
“This is the first study to look at this issue at this level of detail, and the findings are extremely promising,” said Ann Ross, a professor of anthropology at North Carolina State University.
“But more work needs to be done. We need to look at a much larger sample size and evaluate individuals from more diverse ancestral backgrounds,” said Ross, senior author of a paper describing the research in American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
For the study, researchers looked at Level 1 and Level 2 details of right index-finger fingerprints for 243 individuals: 61 African American women; 61 African American men; 61 European American women; and 60 European American men.
The fingerprints were analysed to determine whether there were patterns that were specific to either sex or ancestral background.
The researchers found no significant differences between men and women, but did find significant differences in the Level 2 details of fingerprints between people of European American and African American ancestry.
“A lot of additional work needs to be done, but this holds promise for helping law enforcement,” Ross said.
“This finding also tells us that there’s a level of variation in fingerprints that is of interest to anthropologists, particularly in the area of global population structures – we just need to start looking at the Level 2 fingerprint details,” Ross said.