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Guide to fingerprint identification

Dermatoglyphics (from Ancient Greek derma, "skin", and glyph, "carving") is the scientific study of fingerprints, lines, mounts and shapes of hands, as distinct from the superficially similar pseudoscience of palmistry.

Dermatoglyphics also 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.

In a 2009 report, the scientific basis underlying dermatoglyphics was questioned by the National Academy of Sciences, for the discipline's reliance on subjective comparisons instead of conclusions drawn from the scientific method.[1]


1823 marks the beginning of the scientific study of papillary ridges of the hands and feet, with the work of Jan Evangelista Purkyně.[2]

By 1858, Sir William Herschel, 2nd Baronet, while in India, became the first European to realize the value of fingerprints for identification.

Sir Francis Galton conducted extensive research on the importance of skin-ridge patterns, demonstrating their permanence and advancing the science of fingerprint identification with his 1892 book Fingerprints.

In 1893, Sir Edward Henry published the book The classification and uses of fingerprints, which marked the beginning of the modern era of fingerprint identification and is the basis for other classification systems.

In 1929, Harold Cummins and Charles Midlo M.D., together with others, published the influential book Fingerprints, Palms and Soles, a bible in the field of dermatoglyphics.

In 1945, Lionel Penrose, inspired by the works of Cummins and Midlo, conducted his own dermatoglyphic investigations as a part of his research into Down syndrome and other congenital medical disorders.

In 1976, Schaumann and Alter published the book Dermatoglyphics in Medical Disorders, which summarizes the findings of dermatoglyphic patterns under disease conditions.

In 1982, Seltzer, et al., conducted a study on patients with breast cancer, and concluded that the presence of six or more whorls on a woman's fingertips indicated her being at high risk for breast cancer.

Although the study of dermatoglyphics has some adjunctive value in the diagnosis of genetic syndromes (see examples below), there is insufficient evidence to indicate that there is any value in the examination of dermal ridge patterns for the diagnosis of disease or for identifying disease susceptibility.

Dermatoglyphics and genetic conditions[edit]

Dermatoglyphics, when correlated with genetic abnormalities, aids in the diagnosis of congenital malformations at birth or soon after.

  • 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.[3]
  • Cri du chat (5p-): abnormal dermatoglyphics, including single transverse palmar creases and triradii in the t' position on both hands,[4] are associated with 92% of patients, according to a critical review of multiple studies.[5]
  • Congenital blindness: Initial data points to abnormal triradius.[6]
  • Naegeli–Franceschetti–Jadassohn syndrome: patients lack dermatoglyphics of any kind.[7]
  • 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.[8] Increased incidence of the single transverse palmar crease.
  • Trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome): excess of arches on fingertips and single transverse palmar creases in 60% of patients.[9] Additionally, the hallucal fibular arches tend to form "S" patterns.[10]
  • Trisomy 18 (Edward's syndrome): 6–10 arches on fingertips and single transverse palmar creases in 30% of patients.
  • Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome): people with Down syndrome have a fingerprint pattern with mainly ulnar loops, and a distinct angle between the triradia a, t, and d (the 'adt angle'). Other differences include a single transverse palmar crease ("Simian line") (in 50% of patients), patterns in the hypothenar and interdigital areas,[11] and lower ridge counts along digital midlines, especially in little fingers, which corresponds to finger shortening in those with Down syndrome.[12] There is less variation in dermatoglyphic patterns between people with Down syndrome than between controls,[13] 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.[14]
  • Turner syndrome: predominance of whorls, though the pattern frequency depends on the particular chromosomal abnormality.[15]
  • Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome: preponderance of broad thumbs, low mean ridge count, and fingerprint patterns occurring on interdigital areas.[16]
  • Schizophrenia: A-B ridge counts are generally lower than in controls.[17]
  • Tel Hashomer camptodactyly syndrome : Dermatoglyphic characters that need to be present to diagnose THC are: (a) presence of seven or more whorls on digits (these whorls extend beyond the borders of the terminal phalanges), (b) low main line index, caused by the highly vertical orientation of the A to D radiants, and (c) numerous palmar creases that obliterate the normal structure of the ridges and openings of the sweat pores.[18]


  1. ^ Strengthening Forensic Science: A Path Forward. National Academy of Sciences. 2009. doi:10.17226/12589. ISBN 978-0-309-13130-8. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  2. ^ Grzybowski A, Pietrzak K (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. PMID 25530005.
  3. ^ Komatz Y, Yoshida O (1976). "Finger patterns and ridge counts of patients with Klinefelter's syndrome (47, XXY) among the Japanese". Human Heredity. 26 (4): 290–297. doi:10.1159/000152816. PMID 976997.
  4. ^ Kajii T, Homma T, Oikawa K, Furuyama M, Kawarazaki T (February 1966). "Cri du chat syndrome". Archives of Disease in Childhood. 41 (215): 97–101. doi:10.1136/adc.41.215.97. PMC 2019529. PMID 5906633.
  5. ^ Rodríguez-Caballero A, Torres-Lagares D, Rodríguez-Pérez A, Serrera-Figallo MA, Hernández-Guisado JM, Machuca-Portillo G (May 2010). "Cri du chat syndrome: a critical review". Medicina Oral, Patologia Oral y Cirugia Bucal. 15 (3): e473–e478. doi:10.4317/medoral.15.e473. PMID 20038906.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Lugassy J, Itin P, Ishida-Yamamoto A, Holland K, Huson S, Geiger D, et al. (October 2006). "Naegeli-Franceschetti-Jadassohn syndrome and dermatopathia pigmentosa reticularis: two allelic ectodermal dysplasias caused by dominant mutations in KRT14". American Journal of Human Genetics. 79 (4): 724–730. doi:10.1086/507792. OCLC 110008768. PMC 1592572. PMID 16960809.
  8. ^ Rott HD, Schwanitz G, Reither M (1975). "[Dermatoglyphics in Noonan's syndrome (author's transl)]". Acta Geneticae Medicae et Gemellologiae. 24 (1–2): 63–67. doi:10.1017/s1120962300021892. PMID 1224924.
  9. ^ Schaumann B, Alter M (1976). Dermatoglyphics in Medical Disorders. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. pp. 166–167. ISBN 9783642516207. OCLC 858928199.
  10. ^ Hodes ME, Cole J, Palmer CG, Reed T (February 1978). "Clinical experience with trisomies 18 and 13". Journal of Medical Genetics. 15 (1): 48–60. doi:10.1136/jmg.15.1.48. PMC 1012823. PMID 637922.
  11. ^ Rajangam S, Janakiram S, Thomas IM (January 1995). "Dermatoglyphics in Down's syndrome". Journal of the Indian Medical Association. 93 (1): 10–13. PMID 7759898.
  12. ^ Mglinets VA (March 1991). "[Relationship between dermatoglyphic variability and finger length in genetic disorders: Down's syndrome]". Genetika. 27 (3): 541–547. PMID 1830282.
  13. ^ Mglinets VA, Ivanov VI (1993). "[Bilateral symmetry of the dermatoglyphic characteristics in Down's syndrome]". Ontogenez. 24 (3): 98–102. PMID 8355961.
  14. ^ Durham NM, Koehler JL (August 1989). "Dermatoglyphic indicators of congenital heart defects in Down's syndrome patients: a preliminary study". Journal of Mental Deficiency Research. 33 (4): 343–348. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.1989.tb01485.x. PMID 2527997.
  15. ^ Reed T, Reichmann A, Palmer CG (April 1977). "Dermatoglyphic differences between 45,X and other chromosomal abnormalities of Turner syndrome". Human Genetics. 36 (1): 13–23. doi:10.1007/BF00390431. PMID 858621. S2CID 24603313.
  16. ^ Padfield CJ, Partington MW, Simpson NE (February 1968). "The Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome". Archives of Disease in Childhood. 43 (227): 94–101. doi:10.1136/adc.43.227.94. OCLC 104040715. PMC 2019897. PMID 5642988.
  17. ^ Fañanás L, Moral P, Bertranpetit J (June 1990). "Quantitative dermatoglyphics in schizophrenia: study of family history subgroups". Human Biology. 62 (3): 421–427. OCLC 116604541. PMID 2373511.
  18. ^ Wijerathne BT, Meier RJ, Agampodi SB (September 2016). "The status of dermatoglyphics as a biomarker of Tel Hashomer camptodactyly syndrome: a review of the literature". Journal of Medical Case Reports. 10 (1): 258. doi:10.1186/s13256-016-1048-7. PMC 5030737. PMID 27650795.

Further reading[edit]