Photo by V. Miller
Dec. 14, 2005
Fingerprint Patterns and Ethnicity
The Proof Is in the Print: An Analysis of Fingerprint Patterns within Different Human Ethnicities
Iftin Abshir, 14, Littleton, Colo.
National Park Service Explorer Team Award, Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge, 2005
Project background: During a Junior Police Academy, Iftin became fascinated with fingerprints. She wondered if fingerprint patterns varied by ethnicity. Background research suggested that the genes for skin color and fingerprints are indeed linked.
Tactics and results: Iftin recruited 200 people from five ethic groups: African, Asian, Caucasian, East Indian, and Latin American. Early in her project, many of the people that she approached balked at her request, believing that she worked for a government agency. Iftin struck on a way to reassure the volunteers: She recorded her results immediately and returned the inked cards. "That way, their fingerprints never left their sight," she said. She classified each person's fingerprint by its primary pattern: a loop, a whorl, or an arch.
Iftin found clear differences between groups: 26% of African volunteers displayed arches, whereas only 11% of Asian volunteers had them. Likewise, 67% of Latin American volunteers displayed loops, compared with 50% of Africans.
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