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