Basics about fingerprints

Fingerprints are very unique in nature and permanent from birth to death. Even identical twins would not have the same fingerprints.Fingerprints form while the baby is in the womb. They  do not change with our physical growth or age.

 fingerprint 1

Fingerprints are ridges formed on the fingers. They could be of three types depending on the pattern on the tips of finger– Arches, loops and whorls. The ridges on the finger tips provide friction when we hold our objects in our hands. They also help improve our sense of touch.

Dactyloscopy is the name given to the study of fingerprints. When we touch an object, our fingerprints are left behind on the object because of the skin’s sebaceous glands. These glands are microscopic glands in the skin that secrete an oily or waxy matte called sebum that lubricates the skin. They produce oils and the oil combines with the salts produced by our sweat glands leaving a residue of fingerprints on the objects. The fingerprints on the objects in a crime scene could help in identifying the criminals.


Minor injuries like cuts, scrapes or first degree burns cannot change the fingerprint pattern. When the new skin grows, the original fingerprint patterns are restored. Major burns like third degree burns or surgery may alter fingerprints.


Not all objects around us can retain fingerprints on them. For instance, textiles tend to absorb the oils and moisture on the fingers as they are porous.  Thus, they cannot retain fingerprints. Fingerprints found on hard surfaces like glass or wood that are invisible to the eyes are called latent prints. Visible prints are those that are stained with blood, ink or paint etc. Any print made on soft surfaces like soap or cheese is called molded print.


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