Fingerprints Study: Fingerprints Can Tell If You're Black Or White, Ancestry Background Revealed

A fingerprints study conducted gave some interesting insight. Fingerprints can now tell whether a person is black or white. This is a breakthrough study that gives clues into an individual's ancestry. As fascinating as it is for fingerprints to discern who someone is based on a series of patterns, now it can reveal one's ancestry.

Everyone has a unique set of prints at the tips of the fingers that consist of small loops, ridges, and whorls. Newsweek reports that new research in the fingerprints study tells scientists that "tiny etchings, known as 'dermatoglyphics,' can also serve as way to trace an individual's ancestry."

Anthropologists and forensic scientists rely on fingerprints to learn more about someone's identity. Now they can tell with fingerprints if someone is of African-American or European ancestry.

According to the report, anthropologists examine what's known as Level 1 details, which is an analysis of the pattern types and ridge counts. Forensic scientists work with Level 2 details, which are fingerprint "minutiae"; basically the "specific variants of fingerprints like the shape and direction of ridges and where they split, known as 'bifurcation.'"

Latest studies on fingerprints reveal that ancestry can be uncovered.
Latest studies on fingerprints reveal that ancestry can be uncovered.

The fingerprints study was recently published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. It's said to be one of the first "joint efforts to bridge the gap in the two fields by examining sex and ancestry with a look at pattern type variation of Level 2 detail."

This telling study was taken from 243 individuals that included 61 African-American women, 61 African-American men, 61 European-American women, and 60 European-American men. Research was conducted by examining, in particular, fingerprints from the right index finger.

Fingerprints can tell if a person is black or white.
Fingerprints can tell if a person is black or white.

Significant variations in being able to tell the difference between men and women in the fingerprints research didn't offer up any new information, but finding Level 2 differences in the fingerprints of African-American people versus those of European-American descent did reveal themselves.

Ann Ross is a professor of anthropology and co-director of the Forensic Sciences Institute at North Carolina State University. She's one of the researchers who co-authored the fingerprints study. Ross says that the findings prove that they can be beneficial to anthropologists using Level 2 fingerprint details to "enrich their understanding of global population structures." In order to assure that the results are viable, Ross states that the concept needs to be tested more comprehensively, and have more ethically diverse individuals to work from.

Defining the elements in more detail, "dermatoglyphics" are human traits that begin to form in the womb as early as the sixth or seventh week of gestation. Breaking that down, the shapes and patterns of fingerprints are based on the size of volar, or finger pads -- in addition to stress put on hands and physiological environment factors. These highly individualized characteristics are so distinctive, the odds are only one in several billion chances someone's fingerprints will match another person's exactly.

It's widely known that examining fingerprints is the number one thing crime scene investigators look at besides DNA evidence. Researchers have also learned that certain fingerprint patterns and shapes are associated with different diseases and health conditions. People with Alzheimer's, for example, seem to have more ulnar loops (loop patterns that flow toward the little finger), and they have fewer ridges and arches.

If that's not interesting enough, fingerprint patterns that have six or more whorls tend to belong to women who are affected by breast cancer.

The latest fingerprints study about being able to determine if a person is black or white is just one more advancement for scientists in terms of technology and criminal investigators in narrowing down a suspect.

[Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons]