Why do we have unique fingerprints?

Introduction

If somebody asks your identity then probably the answer is your name. But there are high chances of many people by the same name too in this small place. So the uniqueness of identity is usually caused by certain parameters that is not your name, address, blood group or your face. Rather the thing that makes you unique is your DNA. Although your DNA matches to your parents and siblings to an extent but the permutation and combination of coding of nucleotide gives each one a unique genome. Your genome determines your fingerprints and that's where everyone has a unique fingerprint.

How are fingerprints formed?

Fingerprints are the tiny ridges, whorls and valley patterns on the tip of each finger. We all have fingerprints that are unique to us; do you know how are fingerprints formed? It is very interesting to know how fingerprints are formed and what all factors contribute to its uniqueness. As human race evolved; fingers developed grooves and whorls on it so as to have a better grip of things. As we evolved we became intelligent as well we recognized that these patterns on fingers are different for everybody, even the identical twins have different fingerprints.

There are many factors that play a role in formation of fingerprints. The factors are genetic as well as environmental. The random permutation and combination of these factors causes the unique development of fingerprints. Some of the local factors that contribute to the formation of finger prints are position of foetus in the womb, disposition of amniotic fluid and movement of foetus. They all create a pressure on baby’s soft and tiny fingers and hence formation of fingerprints takes place. All these factors determine the pattern of ridges and swirls on the fingers.

How are fingerprints analysed?

Since the advent of fingerprint recognition and analysis, fingerprint analysis has become an inevitable part of forensic science and has helped solve many complex criminal cases. Fingerprint analysis is a specialised field of forensic science that deals with the analysis and identification of fingerprints. As we all know the patterns and ridges present on the fingertips are known as fingerprints. Although there are many ridges present on the hand and feet but the importance of fingerprints analysis lies in the fact that fingerprints are easily available and there are minute sweat glands present under the pores of the ridges. The presence of sweat glands gives it a unique feature that whenever we touch anything knowingly or unknowingly fingerprints are left on the substance we touch.

So here lies the importance of analysing the fingerprints. Fingerprints are arrangement of ridges. The various permutations and combinations give rise to various arrangements and formation of unique fingerprints in all individuals. These arrangements can be in different patterns such as loops, whorls or arches. Let’s know them one by one:

  1. Loops: Loops begin on one side of the finger, curve around or upward, and exit the other side. There are two types of loops:
    1. Radial loops slope toward the thumb
    2. ulnar loops slope toward the little finger.
  2. Whorls form a circular or spiral pattern.
  3. Arches slope upward and then down, like very narrow mountains.

Fingerprints are analysed on the basis of arrangement of patterns; shape, size and number of lines in these fingerprint patterns to distinguish one from another. Uniqueness of fingerprints not only depends on the arrangement of patterns but also on very tiny characteristics called minutiae, which can only be seen after magnification of prints.

What is the importance of unique fingerprints?

Innovations, inventions and discoveries have always made our life better. Similarly discovery that fingerprints are unique to every individual was the biggest breakthrough in solving many unsolved and complex criminal cases. The most important thing in fingerprints is that the fingerprints are not same even for two identical twins in spite of the fact that they share the same DNA or a fragment of it.

It was in year 1880 that Dr. Henry Faulds discovered that fingerprints could be useful for identification purposes because of its uniqueness. But it was only in 1901, with help of Galton Fingerprint bureau was founded at Scotland Yard.

Fingerprints are nowadays used everywhere from biometric analysis to your Unique identification numbers. Biometrics security systems are based on the scan of either your full palms or finger/thumb, along with analyses of your pupil. Biometrics security or identification systems are the safest, widest acceptable and gaining most popularity these days. The advantages of systems are many. First and foremost you can gain access even if you forget your card. Secondly there is no issue of fake identity cards and most important you need not remember your passwords or fear of someone guessing or hacking your passwords. All these features make it the most reliable security systems.

Challenges associated with fingerprint analysis

There are many advantages of fingerprints and its uniqueness yet there are many challenges associated with it. Challenges can be many from human error too partial prints. Let’s have a look over these problems one by one-

  • The first and foremost problem is with elderly people in whom skin becomes loose as it loses its elasticity.
  • Scanning fingerprints also become a problem in some people with inborn genetic defect whose fingertips are smooth and featureless.
  • One more challenge is the expertise and knowledge of the fingerprint expert; no two fingerprints are ever same. Even the two fingerprints taken immediately after each other from the same individual are not same. So it takes a real expert advice to determine whether the fingerprints taken from the crime scene and individual match or not.
  • Collecting fingerprints from the crime scene is a challenge in itself. Fingerprints are usually dirty or smudged at the crime scenes and it requires an expert investigator who can match the fingerprints.

Though with the use of computers we can easily analyse and match fingerprints but still there’s a lot to be done and we cannot deny the fact that human errors can create havoc in suspected convict’s life if there is some wrong interpretation. So fingerprint results should be collaborated with other results such as DNA analysis to make a final decision.

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Team Vedicus

Community of Medical professionals and other experts, aimed at providing the best and authentic information for educating the public on health awareness.

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