Understanding the relationship between epidermal and dermal fingerprints

Name of Supervisor 1: Dr Hackman
School/Discipline area: Forensic Anthropology, CAHID, SSE

Name of Supervisor 2: Dr Langstaff
School/Discipline area: Forensic Anthropology, CAHID, SSE

Project Description:

The use of fingerprints as a biometric identifier relies on the fact that ridge detail develops very early on in life, remains the same throughout life and is robust and recordable. Attempts are made to try and subvert the ability to read, record and match prints through physically changing the ridge detail on the fingers themselves. These have increasingly centred on attempts to destroy or damage the epidermal skin layer that contains the visible ridge detail. The layer of skin below the epidermis, the dermis, also exhibits ridge detail, however, and whilst it is suggested that the two patterns of ridge detail reflect each other, in reality, this relationship has not been well researched creating issues in their use as an identification tool for border agencies and forensic investigations. The proposed project will address this gap in knowledge in a specific and unique way.

The cadavers within CAHID allow for the ethical collection of data that will give the opportunity to compare and understand the relationship between epidermal and dermal ridge detail. During the Thiel embalming process bodies undergo degloving of the hands exposing the dermal skin layer. The proposed research will undertaking a comprehensive study of epidermal fingerprints taken prior to the commencement of the embalming process and the dermal fingerprints from the same individuals at a later stage in the process. This will allow comparison between fingerprinting methods and between epidermal and dermal ridge patterns providing a scientific approach that takes into account the requirements of admissibility and repeatability and will assist the practitioner in choosing the most optimal method for fingerprint collection in these circumstances.