Sex, Ancestral, and pattern type variation of fingerprint minutiae: A forensic perspective on anthropological dermatoglyphics

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2016 Aug;160(4):625-32. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.22869. Epub 2015 Sep 23.


Objectives: The majority of anthropological studies on dermatoglyphics 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) used for positive identification. The present study bridges the gap between researcher-practitioner by examining sex, ancestral, and pattern type variation of Level 2 detail (e.g., minutiae).

Materials and methods: Bifurcations, ending ridges, short ridges, dots, and enclosures on the right index finger of 243 individuals (n = 61 African American ♀; n = 61 African American ♂; n = 61 European American ♀; n = 60 European American ♂) were analyzed. The overall effect of sex, ancestry, and pattern type on minutiae variation was assessed using a MANCOVA. ANOVA was used to identify Level 2 detail variables responsible for the variation. Logistic regression was used to classify individuals into groups.

Results: The effect of sex is insignificant. Ancestry is significant (Wilks' λ = 0.053 F value = 2.98, DF = 4,224, P value = 0.02), as is pattern type (Wilks' λ = 0.874 F value = 2.57, DF = 12,592.94, P value = 0.003). The ANOVA reveals that bifurcations are responsible for the variation between ancestral groups, while bifurcations and ending ridges vary between patterns. Logistic regression results suggest that total bifurcations can predict the ancestry of an individual (ChiSq = 6.55, df = 1, Prob > ChiSq = 0.01).

Discussion: Significant minutiae variation between ancestral groups yields information that is valuable in both a forensic and anthropological setting. Am J Phys Anthropol 160:625-632, 2016. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: environment; genetics; minutiae; population variation.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anthropology, Physical
  • Black People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Dermatoglyphics*
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*