Fingerprint Similarity: Human, Koala and Chimpanzee

Fingerprint Examination Karunya S todayNovember 23, 2023

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Chimpanzees may come to mind when we think of the closest cousins in the animal kingdom. What if I, however, revealed that, in addition to our shared genetic makeup, we also share a fascinating trait with the eucalyptus-loving koalas, which connects us not only to chimps but also to an unexpected species? The story behind our fingerprints—tiny patterns permanently inscribed on our skin—is fascinating. We’ll explore the striking similarities between chimps, koalas, and humans’ fingerprints in this blog post, illuminating the interesting fields of genetics and evolution.

The arrangement of the ridges appears to be “determined” by the morphology of the volar surface, according to comparative examinations of humans, non-human primates, and the marsupials. If so, it is reasonable to assume that any portion of skin used by any mammal for climbing, gripping, or other similar behaviours will be covered with dermal ridges with a similar layout if the morphology of the underlying section of hand, foot, or tail is similar. In a similar way, the dermatoglyphic patterns of skin regions covering various configurations will vary.

Koala Fingerprints: An Amazing Finding

Researchers discovered an amazing truth in the early 20th century: Koalas, the famous marsupials of Australia, also have unique fingerprints. Koalas, unlike humans, have fingerprints on the pads of their hands and feet rather than the tips of their fingers. Similar to human fingerprints, these prints have a pattern of ridges and whorls that distinguishes them. Koala fingerprints are distinctive to each individual, just like human fingerprints are, making them useful for scientific study and conservation efforts.

In a current comparative anatomical investigation, it has been found that koala dermal ridges resemble those of humans in terms of microscopic morphology, pattern organization, and pattern individuality. Koalas’ hands, feet, and digits have only a little percentage of their naked skin covered with ridges, unlike other higher primates. The remainder have ‘warts,’ or essentially round epidermal elevations. Typically, the distal regions of the extremities of marsupials and eutherians are covered entirely in warts.


  • Study found that ridges and warts cover the majority of the skin on koalas’ palms and soles but warts also exhibit a certain linear organisation.
  • Ridges or linear streams on warts exhibit specific dermatoglyphic patterns including arches, loops, tri-radii, and sometimes whorls.
  • varied people have varied combinations of warts and ridges that cover different areas of skin. Humans can also develop interrupted skin ridges similar to warts.
  • The study found that the entirety of koalas’ fingerprints are parallel ridges. While the remaining skin was infested with warts.
  • Because koalas spend much of their time climbing trees and the fuzz on the foliage and dermal ridges, increases the skin friction, the presence of ridges and warts on the digits, palms, and soles of koalas was thought to be rational.
  • However, this theory of increased friction was disproved because most arboreal marsupials have apical pad ridges, which typically run parallel to the digit axis and are unable to counteract the digits’ backward drive during locomotion.

Chimpanzee Fingerprints: A Connection to Primates:

Our closest surviving cousins in the animal realm, chimpanzees, also have distinctive fingerprints. Their hand and foot prints have a pattern that is very similar to both human and koala prints. These prints are found on the palms of their hands and soles of their feet. The closeness between chimpanzee and human fingerprints serves as evidence of our species’ shared evolutionary history.

A 46-year-old female chimpanzee’s exposed skin on her digits, palms, and soles was also examined. About 12 hours following the death in that case, observations were made. To identify patterns, dermatoglyphics were printed with ordinary ink. A glass plate, a 100 mm wide roller, and black ink were used to create prints.


Since they are substantially longer and have a very clearly defined core ridge or collection of ridges, the ridges on the fingertips form distinct tented arch patterns that are plainly different from those on human fingertips. However, the positioning of the ridges on the chimpanzee’s palms and soles resembles that of human beings. Typically, each finger has a tri-radius at the base, while the palms have loops in various places.


The remarkable linkages between these animals and their evolutionary histories are highlighted by the discovery of fingerprints in humans, koalas, and chimpanzees. Although the precise roles played by these fingerprints may vary, their existence emphasises how crucial manual dexterity and gripping skills are to these species’ survival.

Since tree kangaroos (Dendrolagus linustus), which walk on the surface of bigger tree limbs and branches, do not exhibit dermatoglyphes, an arboreal lifestyle is insufficient to explain the presence of dermatoglyphes. They have wombat-like warts all over their hands and feet. Therefore, the biomechanical adaptation to grabbing, which results in multidirectional mechanical impacts on the skin, is the best explanation for the formation of dermatoglyphic. The organisation of the skin surface is therefore necessary since these forces must be precisely felt in order to manage movement and static pressures. Additionally, compared to chimpanzee patterns, human tented arches are substantially shorter in their proximal-distal dimension.

Even species that are quite different from humans, such marsupials, have dermatoglyphic patterns that are highly similar to human ones. This may be an example of the same skin adaption to climbing evolving independently. However, it is still possible to make the case that the ridged tactile skin covered with dermatoglyphic patterns that match the three-dimensional arrangement of underlying pads is a fundamental mammalian trait that originated before the division between marsupials and placentals took place. Given that it is generally accepted that the earliest mammals were arboreal, this is very possible. Regardless of the theoretical argument, it is important for forensic purposes to be aware that animal fingerprints might closely match those left by humans.


  1. Henneberg, M., Lambert, K.M. and Leigh, C.M., 1998. FINGERPRINTING A CHIMPANZEE AND A KOALA: ANIMAL DERMATOGLYPHICS CAN RESEMBLE HUMAN ONES. In Proceedings of the Conference of the Australian and New Zealand International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences 1996.
  2. Dogaru, M. and Gheorghe, V., 2011. WHO ELSE HAS FINGERPRINTS?/CINE MAI ARE AMPRENTE PAPILARE?. Romanian Journal of Forensic Science11(74), p.657.
  3. Ghosh, A. and Pahari, I., 2021. Fingerprinting: The unique tool for identification in forensic science. Advanced Research in Veterinary Sciences22, p.22.
  4. HENNEBERG, M., LAMBERT, K.M. and LEIGH, C.M., Fingerprint homoplasy: koalas and humans Note.

Written by: Karunya S

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