The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Examining Fingerprint Identification Through an Anthropological Lens


Sociology and Anthropology, North Carolina State University

March 26, 2015 , Gateway Ballroom 2 Add to calendar

Dermatoglyphics are of interest to researchers from a variety of fields; two in particular are physical anthropology and forensic science. The majority of anthropological studies examine the heritability and inter-population variation of Level 1 Detail (e.g. pattern type, total ridge count), while forensic scientists concentrate on individual uniqueness of Level 2 and 3 Detail (e.g. minutiae and pores, respectively) that are used for positive identification. Therefore, results of anthropological studies are mostly irrelevant to latent fingerprint analysis and collaboration between both disciplines is limited to non-existent. The present study seeks to change that. We tested whether minutiae, which vary individually, show any evidence of genetic influence on variation at the group level by examining the effect of ancestry (e.g. population) and/or sex on the quantity and type of minutiae. Bifurcations, ending ridges, short ridges, dots, and enclosures were analyzed. Each minutia type was visually counted on the right index finger of 244 individuals (n = 61 African American ♀; n = 61 African American ♂; n = 61 European American ♀; n = 61 European American ♂). A MANOVA was used to analyze the overall effect of sex and ancestry on minutiae variables. Results show that the overall model was significant (Wilks’ λ F-value = 1.76, numDF = 192, denDF = 1623.1, p-value = <0.0001). Therefore, fingerprint minutiae vary by sex and ancestry, like Level 1 Detail. This finding suggests that minutiae could yield valuable information regarding the sex and ancestry associated with a fingerprint in a forensic setting.