Dermatoglyphics from all Chinese ethnic groups reveal geographic patterning

PLoS One. 2010 Jan 20;5(1):e8783. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008783.


Completion of a survey of dermatoglyphic variables for all ethnic groups in an ethnically diverse country like China is a huge research project, and an achievement that anthropological and dermatoglyphic scholars in the country could once only dream of. However, through the endeavors of scientists in China over the last 30 years, the dream has become reality. This paper reports the results of a comprehensive analysis of dermatoglyphics from all ethnic groups in China. Using cluster analysis and principal component analysis of dermatoglyphics, it has been found that Chinese populations can be generally divided into a southern group and a northern group. Furthermore, there has been considerable debate about the origins of many Chinese populations and about proper assignment of these peoples to larger ethnic groups. In this paper, we suggest that dermatoglyphic data can inform these debates by helping to classify a Chinese population as a northern or southern group, using selected reference populations and quantitative methods. This study is the first to assemble and investigate dermatoglyphics from all 56 Chinese ethnic groups. It is fortunate that data on population dermatoglyphics, a field of physical anthropology, have now been collected for all 56 Chinese ethnic groups, because intermarriage between individuals from different Chinese ethnic groups occurs more frequently in recent times, making population dermatoglyphic research an ever more challenging field of inquiry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Dermatoglyphics*
  • Ethnicity*
  • Geography*
  • Humans