Europhys. Lett.
Volume 68, Number 1, October 2004
Page(s) 141 - 146
Section Interdisciplinary physics and related areas of science and technology
Published online 01 September 2004
Europhys. Lett., 68 (1), pp. 141-146 (2004)
DOI: 10.1209/epl/i2004-10161-2

A model for fingerprint formation

M. Kücken1 and A. C. Newell1, 2

1  Program in Applied Mathematics, University of Arizona - 85721 Tucson, AZ, USA
2  Department of Mathematics, University of Arizona - 85721 Tucson, AZ, USA

received 14 April 2004; accepted in final form 27 July 2004

The uniqueness of fingerprints (epidermal ridges) has been recognized for over two thousand years. They have been studied scientifically for more than two hundred years. Yet, in spite of the accumulation of a wealth of empirical and experimental knowledge, no widely accepted explanation for the development of epidermal ridges on fingers, palms and soles has yet emerged. Informed by an extensive literature study we suggest that fingerprint patterns are created as the result of a buckling instability in the basal cell layer of the fetal epidermis. Analysis of the well-known von Karman equations informs us that the buckling direction is perpendicular to the direction of greatest stress in the basal layer. We propose that this stress is induced by resistance of furrows and creases to the differential growth of the basal layer and regression of the volar pads during the time of ridge formation. These theories have been tested by computer experiments. The results are in close harmony with observations. Specifically, they are consistent with the well-known observation that the pattern type depends on the geometry of the fingertip surface when fingerprint patterns are formed.

87.18.La - Morphogenesis.
87.19.Rr - Mechanical properties of tissues and organs.

© EDP Sciences 2004

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