Metro

  • Written by Sarah Leupen, Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
How did I get my own unique set of fingerprints? Curious Kids[1] is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to CuriousKidsUS@theconversation.com[2]. How do we get the fingerprints we have? – Oscar V., age 8, Somerville, Massachusetts Fingerprints are those little ridges on the tips of your fingers. They’re essentially folds of the outer layer of skin, the epidermis. The “prints” themselves are the patterns of skin oils or dirt these ridges leave behind on a surface you’ve touched. How did I get my own unique set of fingerprints? A careful closeup look will show you your fingerprint’s ridges and valleys. Fotosr52/Shutterstock.com[3] Your fingerprints began to form before you were born. When a fetus starts to grow, the outside layer of its skin is smooth. But after about 10 weeks, a deeper layer of skin, called the basal layer, starts growing faster than the layers above it, which makes it “buckle” and fold[4]. The expanding lower layer ends up scrunched and bunched beneath the outside layer. These folds eventually cause the surface layers of the skin to fold too, and by the time a fetus is 17 weeks old – about halfway through a pregnancy – its fingerprints are set[5]. Although this folding process might sound random, the overall size and shape of fingerprints are influenced by the genes you get from your parents.[6] So you probably share some fingerprint patterns with your family members. But the details of your fingerprints are influenced by many other factors besides genes. For example, the shape and size of the blood vessels in your skin, how fast the different layers of skin are growing, and the chemical environment inside the womb all play a part. No two people end up with exactly the same fingerprints, even identical twins[7]. It was only in 2015 that a big long-term study showed that fingerprints are stable[8] over a person’s lifetime. The ridges of a fingerprint are visible on the skin’s surface layer, but the pattern is actually “encoded” below that. Even if you have a major skin injury, your prints will come back when the outer layer heals – though you might have a scar, too. So your fingerprints are totally unique to you and have been since before you were born. No matter how much you change as you grow up, you’ll always have the set you have now, no matter how long you live. What’s a fingerprint’s point? Surprisingly, nobody really knows what fingerprints are for. People have long thought that fingerprints provide the friction that helps our hands grip objects. This makes sense because the other animals besides human beings that have fingerprints – including many other primates like apes and monkeys, and koalas[9] – are all tree climbers. But sometimes what makes sense isn’t true, and a recent study found that fingerprints don’t really help people hold onto things[10] – at least, not things with smooth surfaces. Other possibilities are that fingerprints improve your sense of touch or help protect your fingers from injury. But scientists don’t know for sure yet. Making use of your prints Police have been using fingerprints and their unique loop, whorl and arch shapes[11] to help catch criminals for more than 2,000 years, starting in ancient China[12]. Fingerprints are now used for many other things as well, all based on the fact that each person’s fingerprints are different. You can use that unique code to unlock your phone or enter a restricted area, for example. In Malawi, fingerprints have been used to identify farmers who have taken out loans[13]. They can even be taken from babies[14] and used throughout the person’s life to access their immunization records[15]. How did I get my own unique set of fingerprints? Do your prints match those left at the scene of a crime? New Africa/Shutterstock.com[16] Police forces are still finding new uses for fingerprints, too. As fingerprint detection and study methods have improved, detectives can even use them to see who threw a particular stone[17]. Those little ridges can hide tiny amounts of substances too – which means they could be used to detect the use of illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin[18]. And now forensic scientists can detect decades-old fingerprints, too – maybe allowing detectives to solve really old crimes – with a new technique that uses a color-changing chemical[19] to map the sweat glands within your fingerprints. Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to CuriousKidsUS@theconversation.com[20]. Please tell us your name, age and the city where you live. And since curiosity has no age limit – adults, let us know what you’re wondering, too. We won’t be able to answer every question, but we will do our best.

References

  1. ^ Curious Kids (theconversation.com)
  2. ^ CuriousKidsUS@theconversation.com (theconversation.com)
  3. ^ Fotosr52/Shutterstock.com (www.shutterstock.com)
  4. ^ which makes it “buckle” and fold (doi.org)
  5. ^ its fingerprints are set (doi.org)
  6. ^ influenced by the genes you get from your parents. (ghr.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. ^ even identical twins (doi.org)
  8. ^ fingerprints are stable (doi.org)
  9. ^ and koalas (www.livescience.com)
  10. ^ don’t really help people hold onto things (doi.org)
  11. ^ unique loop, whorl and arch shapes (www.forensicsciencesimplified.org)
  12. ^ starting in ancient China (www.ncjrs.gov)
  13. ^ identify farmers who have taken out loans (doi.org)
  14. ^ taken from babies (doi.org)
  15. ^ access their immunization records (www.futurity.org)
  16. ^ New Africa/Shutterstock.com (www.shutterstock.com)
  17. ^ who threw a particular stone (doi.org)
  18. ^ detect the use of illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin (doi.org)
  19. ^ new technique that uses a color-changing chemical (doi.org)
  20. ^ CuriousKidsUS@theconversation.com (theconversation.com)

Authors: Sarah Leupen, Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Read more https://theconversation.com/how-did-i-get-my-own-unique-set-of-fingerprints-128391

Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

Visit The Conversation to see more

Entertainment News

Violin ReEnvisioned

Falling in love with music so young was more than transformative. Music became the lead sheet of my life; challenging me to navigate changes with grace, maintain a steady rhythmic groove, dynami...

Chelsey Green - avatar Chelsey Green

Kadda Sheekoff Win Best Urban Song For "All My Life"

Singer Kadda Sheekoff have emerged as the toast of the 2020 Songdew Pause&Play. Obviously, there are many composers who deserve the award more than Kadda Sheekoff, but the decision of the S...

Media Release - avatar Media Release

A Musical Journey: The Authentic Ted Cline

Ted Cline was born in 1962 as the 11th of 13 children.  His parents were hard-working tobacco share-croppers in Weston, Missouri. By the time he was eleven, he was sneaking downstairs to play his...

Ted Cline - avatar Ted Cline

Angela Predhomme - My Musical Journey

Determined to “make it” in the music industry as a songwriter, I meticulously crafted the best songs I could and pitched them to industry gatekeepers. “THIS one’s got to be IT,” I thought. But ala...

Angela Predhomme - avatar Angela Predhomme

GREYE: “So Far So Good”

“So Far So Good” After seven plus years firing up venues up and down the Atlantic Coast and throughout the Midwest to the breakneck tune of 90-110 annual shows, it’s definitely been jarring fo...

News Company - avatar News Company

The life and times of Wendy Moten

I never thought I would be in the music business, much less a recording artist. I never saw it coming. I thought I'd be a corporate attorney or something like that. Little did I know that anothe...

Wendy Moten - avatar Wendy Moten

CARY PARK “You Matter to Me”

“You Matter to Me” In any other time, Cary Park’s stunning new single “You Matter to Me” might be just another beautiful heartfelt love song, an outpouring of personal affection towards a cheri...

News Company - avatar News Company

TED CLINE ... Country Music Done Right

Country Music Done Right When Ted Cline uses the phrase “Country Music Done Right” to describe his engaging vibe, the Kansas City area-based singer/songwriter isn’t simply being crafty or clev...

News Company - avatar News Company

LAMONT DOZIER, JR. “Why Can’t We Be Lovers”/”I’m Gonna Take My Time”

When it comes to enduring musical legacies, it’s always inspiring when the melodic, grooving evergreen apples drop so close to the tree. The son and namesake of legendary singer, songwriter and re...

News Company - avatar News Company

Metropolitan Business News

MODEL/ACTOR THORN CASTILLO IS THE “NEW FACE” OF SCHICK STYLIST

In 2019, just as his multi-faceted career was taking off, Thorn Castillo heard Robert Downey Jr. offer a sage bit of advice during an interview on photographer/director Sam Jones’ acclaimed multi-...

News Company - avatar News Company

New Research Highlights Opportunities for Sports Betting

Revenue Stream for Sports’ Post-COVID-19 Recovery Strategies New Rochelle, NY, June 1, 2020— Twenty-four states have now legalized sports betting, with more states considering legalization la...

Len Stein - avatar Len Stein

How to make overseas transfers easier?

Mainstream banks can charge as much as $20 just to process a basic international money transfer. Fortunately, today people are not doomed to handling personal finances only through mainstream gl...

News Company - avatar News Company

The flourishing international market of fragrance and perfume

There is something special and unique about the art of fragrance. This is a big world and there are quite literally a lot of smells around at any given time. In fact, as one of the five human senses i...

News Company - avatar News Company

Impact of good marketing on sales

Sales and marketing are brothers as they go hand and in hand. The job of both of these departments is to generate revenue so that an organization can make money. A company that does not generate rev...

News Company - avatar News Company

7 effective tips for increasing sales in retail

It seems that retailers have drawn a difficult lot in the 21st century: competition from online retail is growing steadily. After all, Internet retailers can sell your products at significantly lowe...

News Company - avatar News Company

Holidays

5 COOL GADGETS TO CARRY FOR A SAFE TRIP

Are you planning to go on a trip? Possibly, you do not know what things are most necessary on a trip. In this article, we will guide you through some important tips. These tips help you to...

News Company - avatar News Company

New Baggage Regulations to Help Aussie Parents Travel with Infants

Travelling around the globe has never been easy, especially when infants tag along for the trip. One of the main issues that parents often have to deal with is the need to bring extra item...

News Company - avatar News Company

Maya Beach Opens to Tourists

Despite recent reports that Southern Thailand's famous Maya Beach will close for three months this year, in fact no decision to this effect has been made by Thai authorities. Phi Phi Nati...

Maevadi Rosenfeldt - avatar Maevadi Rosenfeldt