Give Now

A Moment of Science

Fingerprints

They say that no two fingerprints are alike, but your relatives’ fingerprints might look similar to your own. While the intricate details of an individual fingerprint are unique, pattern types and the overall size, shape, and spacing of the ridges in a pattern are all inherited traits.

To identify the correct person behind a large whorl with wide spacing, one must look at fine details such as slight differences in various landmarks of the whorl pattern, how different ridges break or fork, and the shape of ridge edges.

Because fingerprints are produced by a combination of genetic programming and random chance. Early in gestation, a fetus develops smooth, raised pads on the fingers, palms, and feet. These are called volar pads. At about week ten, these pads cease growing and begin to regress. It may be that the hands continue to grow, resulting in the pads stretching out. Anywhere between about week ten to week fifteen, the early ridges of one’s fingerprints begin to form. The ridges appear on the surface of the hand by week sixteen. This timing of ridge formation is one feature that is genetically programmed, and hence, if your parents have a lot of whorls on their fingertips, you’re likely to possess a lot of whorls too. However, the intricate details of your whorls are left to chance.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science