This week, Tom Crawford put Helenís question under the magnifying glass to try and find out whether fingerprints really are unique and if so, whether the same applies to toeprints? We put this to Forensic Scientist, Professor Niamh Nic Daeid form Dundee University...
Helen Fawthrop asked the Naked Scientists: Hello Chris Please put me out of my misery. How is it possible no one persons finger prints are the same as anothers. How can one developing embroyo possible know what pattern another developing embroyo has choosen? Many thanks Helen Fawthrop Cape Town South Africa What do you think? Helen Fawthrop , Tue, 20th May 2008
The pattern is created by a random process during growth i believe. It could be possible for two people to have the same fingerprint but it would be very very unlikely. Madidus_Scientia, Wed, 21st May 2008
That's right. Not even identical twins have the same physical fingerprint. Their genetic fingerprints, on the other hand (!), are a direct match.
There is no actual ukase from the universe that mandates that fingerprints are unique. It is just that the probability is so low that it is, effectively, impossible in our lifetimes.
On a side-branch: