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Dermatoglyphics (from ancient Greek derma = "skin", glyph = "carving") is the scientific study of fingerprints and can be traced back to 1892 when one of the most original biologists of his time, Sir Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, published his now classic work on fingerprints. The study was later termed Dermatoglyphics by Dr. Harold Cummins, the father of American fingerprint analysis, even though the process of fingerprint identification had already been in use for several hundred years.[1] All primates have ridged skin. It can also be found on the paws of certain mammals, and on the tails of some monkey species. In humans and animals, dermatoglyphs are present on fingers, palms, toes and soles. This helps shed light on a critical period of embryogenesis, between four weeks and five months, when the architecture of the major organ systems is developing.

The word dermatoglyphics comes from two Greek words (derma, skin and glyphe, carve) and refers to the friction ridge formations which appear on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Characteristically, hair does not grow from this area. The ridging formations serve well to enhance contact, an area of multiple nerve endings (Dermal Papillae) and aids in the prevention of slippage. People of African ancestry display reduced skin pigmentation in the designated locations. All studies of the dermal ridge arrangements are classified under the term dermatoglyphics.

The word subdermatoglyphic is cited as one of the longest isograms in the English language.

Genetic disorders[edit]

Unusual dermatoglyphic patterns often relate to genetic disorders.[2][3] One study of fetuses with chromosomal abnormalities showed that the dermatoglyphic patterns were delayed by more than two weeks.[4]

  • 47,XXY or XXY (Klinefelter's syndrome): Excess of arches on digit 1, more frequent ulnar loops on digit 2, overall fewer whorls, lower ridge counts for loops and whorls as compared with controls, and significant reduction of the total finger ridge count.[5]
  • Astigmatism relation:[6]
  • Cri du chat (5p-): Excess of arches on fingertips and single transverse palmar creases in 90%.
  • Inborn blindness: Initial data points to abnormal triradius[7] and excess of arches on fingertips.[8]
  • Naegeli–Franceschetti–Jadassohn syndrome
  • Noonan syndrome: Increased frequency of whorls on fingertips, and the axial triradius t, as in Turner syndrome, is more often in position t' or t" than in controls.[9] Increased incidence of single transverse palmar creases.
  • Trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome): Excess of arches on fingertips and single transverse palmar creases in 60%.
  • Trisomy 18 (Edward's syndrome) 6 - 10 arches on fingertips and single transverse palmar creases in 30%.
  • Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome): People with Down syndrome have a finger print pattern with mainly ulnar loops, and a significantly different angle between the triradia a, t and d (the 'adt angle'). Other differences often include a single transverse palmar crease ("Simian line") (in 50%), and patterns in the hypothenar and interdigital areas,[10] lower ridge counts along digital midlines, especially in little fingers, which corresponds to finger shortening in those with Down's syndrome.[11] There is less variation in dermatoglyphic patterns between people with Down syndrome than between controls,[12] and dermatoglyphic patterns can be used to determine correlations with congenital heart defects in individuals with Down syndrome by examining the left hand digit ridge count minus the right hand digit ridge count, and the number of ridges on the fifth digit of the left hand.[13]
  • Turner syndrome: Predominance of whorls, although the pattern frequency depends on the particular chromosomal abnormality.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fingerprint#History of fingerprinting for identification
  2. ^ Shiono H (1986). "Dermatoglyphics in medicine". Am J Forensic Med Pathol 7 (2): 120–6. doi:10.1097/00000433-198607020-00008. PMID 2943156. 
  3. ^ Katznelson M, Goldman B (1982). "Fetal dermatoglyphics". Clin Genet 21 (4): 237–42. doi:10.1111/j.1399-0004.1982.tb00757.x. PMID 6213324. 
  4. ^ Suzumori K (1980). "Dermatoglyphic analysis of fetuses with chromosomal abnormalities". American Journal of Human Genetics 32 (6): 859–68. PMC 1686142. PMID 6449865. 
  5. ^ Komatz Y, Yoshida O (1976). "Finger patterns and ridge counts of patients with Klinefelter's syndrome (47, XXY) among the Japanese". Hum Hered 26 (4): 290–7. doi:10.1159/000152816. PMID 976997. 
  6. ^ Viswanathan G and Rojesh S (2006). "[Dermatoglyphics analysis of astigmatic patients from Bangalore.]". J. Ecobioloy. 
  7. ^ Viswanathan G, Singh H, Ramanujam P (2002). "Dermatoglyphic analysis of palmar print of blind children from Bangalore.". J. Ecotoxicol. Environ. Monit. 12: 49–52. 
  8. ^ Viswanathan G, Singh H, Ramanujam P (2002). "[Dermatoglyphic analysis of finger tip print patterns of blind children from Bangalore.]". J. Ecotoxicol. Environ. Monit. 12: 73–75. 
  9. ^ Rott H, Schwanitz G, Reither M (1975). "[Dermatoglyphics in Noonan's syndrome (author's transl)]". Acta Genet Med Gemellol (Roma) 24 (1–2): 63–7. PMID 1224924. 
  10. ^ Rajangam S, Janakiram S, Thomas I (1995). "Dermatoglyphics in Down's syndrome". J Indian Med Assoc 93 (1): 10–3. PMID 7759898. 
  11. ^ Mglinets V (1991). "[Relationship between dermatoglyphic variability and finger length in genetic disorders: Down's syndrome]". Genetika 27 (3): 541–7. PMID 1830282. 
  12. ^ Mglinets V, Ivanov V (1993). "[Bilateral symmetry of the dermatoglyphic characteristics in Down's syndrome]". Ontogenez 24 (3): 98–102. PMID 8355961. 
  13. ^ Durham N, Koehler J (1989). "Dermatoglyphic indicators of congenital heart defects in Down's syndrome patients: a preliminary study". J Ment Defic Res 33 (4): 343–8. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.1989.tb01485.x. PMID 2527997. 
  14. ^ Reed T, Reichmann A, Palmer C (1977). "Dermatoglyphic differences between 45,X and other chromosomal abnormalities of Turner syndrome". Hum Genet 36 (1): 13–23. doi:10.1007/BF00390431. PMID 858621.