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Dermatoglyphics (from Ancient Greek derma, "skin", and glyph, "carving") is the scientific study of fingerprints, lines, mounts and shapes of hands. Dermatoglyphics refers to the making of naturally occurring ridges on certain body parts, namely palms, fingers, soles, and toes. These are areas where hair usually does not grow, and these ridges allow for increased leverage when picking up objects or walking barefoot. The fingerprints of both hands are not the same. They do not change size or shape throughout a person's life, except in cases of serious injuries that scar the dermis.

As a term, dermatoglyphics is used to distinguish it from the superficially similar pseudoscience of palmistry. Recently, the scientific basis underlying dermatoglyphics was questioned by the National Academy of Sciences in a 2009 report[1] for relying on subjective comparisons instead of conclusions drawn from the scientific method.

Dermatoglyphics and genetic aberrations[edit]

Dermatoglyphics, when correlated with genetic abnormalities, is useful in the diagnosis of these disorders at birth or soon after. They aid in the diagnosis of congenital malformations.

  • Klinefelter 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.[2]
  • Cri du chat (5p-): abnormal dermatoglyphics are associated with 92% of patients in a critical review of multiple studies,[3] including single transverse palmar creases and triradii in the t' position on both hands.[4]
  • Congenital blindness: Initial data points to abnormal triradius[5]
  • Naegeli–Franceschetti–Jadassohn syndrome: patients lack dermatoglyphics of any kind.[6]
  • 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.[7] Increased incidence of the single transverse palmar crease.
  • Trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome): excess of arches on fingertips and single transverse palmar creases in 60%.[8] Additionally, the halucal fibular arches tend to form "S" patterns.[9]
  • 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 fingerprint pattern with mainly ulnar loops, and a different angle between the triradia a, t and d (the 'adt angle'). Other differences 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 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, though the pattern frequency depends on the particular chromosomal abnormality.[14]
  • Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome: preponderance of broad thumbs, low mean ridge count, and fingerprint patterns occurring on interdigital areas.[15]
  • Schizophrenia: A-B ridge counts are generally lower than in controls.[16]


The scientific study of papillary ridges of the hands and feet is credited as the beginning with the work of Jan Evangelista Purkyně in 1823.[17]

Sir William Herschel, 2nd Baronet (1858) was the first to experiment with fingerprints in India.

Sir Francis Galton (1892) conducted extensive research on the importance of skin ridge patterns to demonstrate their permanence, but also their use for identification. In 1892, Galton published the book Fingerprints and in doing so advanced the science of fingerprint identification.

Sir Edward Henry (1893) published the book The classification and uses of fingerprints which established the modern era of fingerprint identification, which is now the basis for other classification systems.

Harold Cummins and Charles Midlo M D (1929) together with others published a widely referred book Fingerprints, Palms and soles, a bible in the field of Dermatoglyphics.

Lionel Penrose (1945), inspired by the works of Cummins and Midlo, conducted his own dermatoglyphic investigations as a further aspect of his research into Down's syndrome and other congenital medical disorders.

Schaumann and Alter (1976) published a book Dermatoglyphics in Medical disorders which summarizes the findings of dermatoglyphic patterns in disease conditions (1).

Seltzer, et al. (1982) conducted a study on patients with breast cancer, and concluded that the presence of six or more whorls on the fingertips of a person provided a high risk for breast cancer.

The current state of medical dermatoglyphics is that the diagnosis of illnesses can now be done with dermatoglyphic analysis alone. Currently, dermatoglyphic researchers claim a high degree of accuracy in their prognostic ability from the hand features.


  1. ^ Sciences, National Academy of. "Strengthening Forensic Science: A Path Forward". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 29 December 2016. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Rodriguez-Caballero, Ángela; Torres-Lagares, Daniel; Rodriguez-Perez, Antonio; Serrera-Figallo, María-Ángeles; Hernandez-Guisado, José-María; Machuca-Portillo, Guillermo (2010). "Cri du chat syndrome: A critical review". Medicina Oral Patología Oral y Cirugia Bucal: e473–e478. doi:10.4317/medoral.15.e473. 
  4. ^ Kajii, Tadashi; Homma, Takemi; Oikawa, Kiyoshi; Furuyama, Masayuki; Kawarazaki, Takashi (1 February 1966). "Cri du chat syndrome". Archives of Disease in Childhood. 41 (215): 97–101. doi:10.1136/adc.41.215.97. 
  5. ^ Viswanathan G, Singh H, Ramanujam P (2002). "Dermatoglyphic analysis of palmar print of blind children from Bangalore". J. Ecotoxicol. Environ. Monit. 12: 49–52.  and excess of arches on fingertips.Viswanathan G, Singh H, Ramanujam P (2002). "[Dermatoglyphic analysis of fingertip print patterns of blind children from Bangalore.]". J. Ecotoxicol. Environ. Monit. 12: 73–75. 
  6. ^ Lugassy, Jennie; Itin, Peter; Ishida-Yamamoto, Akemi; Holland, Kristen; Huson, Susan; Geiger, Dan; Hennies, Hans Christian; Indelman, Margarita; Bercovich, Dani; Uitto, Jouni; Bergman, Reuven; McGrath, John A.; Richard, Gabriele; Sprecher, Eli (October 2006). "Naegeli-Franceschetti-Jadassohn Syndrome and Dermatopathia Pigmentosa Reticularis: Two Allelic Ectodermal Dysplasias Caused by Dominant Mutations in KRT14". The American Journal of Human Genetics. 79 (4): 724–730. doi:10.1086/507792. ISSN 0002-9297. OCLC 110008768. PMC 1592572Freely accessible. PMID 16960809. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Schaumann, Blanka; Alter, Milton (1976). Dermatoglyphics in Medical Disorders. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. pp. 166–167. ISBN 9783642516207. OCLC 858928199. 
  9. ^ Hodes, M E; Cole, J; Palmer, C G; Reed, T (1 February 1978). "Clinical experience with trisomies 18 and 13". Journal of Medical Genetics. 15 (1): 48–60. doi:10.1136/jmg.15.1.48. 
  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. 
  15. ^ Padfield, C. J.; Partington, M. W.; Simpson, N. E. (1 February 1968). "The Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome". Archives of Disease in Childhood. 43 (227): 94–101. doi:10.1136/adc.43.227.94. ISSN 0003-9888. OCLC 104040715. PMC 2019897Freely accessible. 
  16. ^ Fañanás, L; Moral, P; Bertranpetit, J (June 1990). "Quantitative dermatoglyphics in schizophrenia: study of family history subgroups". Human biology. 62 (3): 421–7. ISSN 0018-7143. OCLC 116604541. PMID 2373511. 
  17. ^ Grzybowski, Andrzej; Pietrzak, Krzysztof (2015). "Jan Evangelista Purkynje (1787-1869): first to describe fingerprints". Clinics in Dermatology. 33 (1): 117–121. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2014.07.011. ISSN 1879-1131. PMID 25530005. 

Further reading[edit]