MadSci Network: Genetics

Re: Do fingerprints of family members have anything in common?

Date: Tue Nov 28 10:45:01 2000
Posted By: Dale L. Laux, Staff, Serology/DNA, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification
Area of science: Genetics
ID: 974658620.Ge


Good question and I've wondered about this myself. The underlying question that you're asking is, "Is there a genetic influence on the development of fingerprints?". There have been extensive studies on fingerprints and twins, especially here in Twinsburg, Ohio. Certainly, if there were a genetic influence on the development of fingerprints, one would expect to see it in twins. Other than a general influence on basic pattern formation, there does not seem to be a stable, inheritable, genetic influence.

Don't be discouraged however. Keep in mind that latent prints, the fingerprints left at crime scenes, are rarely complete, clearly registered, latents. They are generally smudged partials. So a good question to ask is, "Could a partial latent be attributed to two people, perhaps siblings or parents?" In other words, are there areas shared by siblings that are so similiar as to be indistinguishable?

There is a chapter in Andre Moenssens Fingerprint Techniques called "Medical and Related Research in Fingerprint Applications." This book was published in 1971 and is not an easy text to find, so if you need us to photocopy and mail it, let me know. A citation in James F. Cowger’s Friction Ridge Skin: Comparison and Identification of Fingerprints:

"A number of researchers have shown that the patterns in friction ridged skin are affected by genetic factors (Srivastava, 1965; Mukherjee, 1966; Holt, 1968). These patterns are the general flows of the friction ridges. There is as yet no evidence that the arrangement of the minutiae (ending ridges, bifurcating ridges, etc.) is in anyway genetically influenced. Even in cases of very close kinship, such as identical (monozygotic) twins the prints of the individuals are still easily distinguished by comparison of the minutiae, although pattern types may be quite similar."

Holt, S.B. 1968. The Genetics of Dermal Ridges. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas, Publ.

Mukherjee, D.P. 1966. “Inheritance of the Total Number of Triradii on Fingers, Palms, and Soles.” Annual of Human Genetics, London (29):349.

Srivastava, R.P. 1965.”A Quantitative Analysis of the Fingerprints of the Tharsus of Uttar Pradesh.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, N.S. 23(2):pp. 99-106.

You might also check out the webpage for the International Association for Identification at And as always, research on the internet. Hope this helps and good luck in your project.

Dale L. Laux
Forensic Scientist

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