Comparison of Epidermal and Dermal Fingerprints in Elderly Individuals
: a Pilot Study

  • Veronika Dzetkulicová

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science


In cases of forensic fingerprint identification dermal prints are encountered and used less frequently. Although previous research established the relationship between epidermal and dermal fingerprints, there is a lack of literature detailing identifications based on the comparison of these two skin layers. It is also known that the dermis undergoes changes with increasing age and therefore the aim of present study was to investigate the amount of information available on dermal fingerprints compared to epidermal fingerprints in elderly individuals. Dermal and epidermal fingerprints were collected from left hands of six cadavers (age range between 61 and 99 years) using two methods – black powder and photography. All fingerprints were analysed by a non-expert with limited fingerprint training and a sample of six pairs of prints collected using powder was also analysed by fingerprint experts. More minutiae were found on epidermal fingerprints than on dermal fingerprints (V=69, p=0.02133) and powder was proven as the most successful of the two methods in regards to minutiae detection (V=69.5, p=0.0222). However, the number of matching minutiae was generally low and the experts had difficulties to confirm identity of individuals (positive only in three cases out of six). Correlation between the number of minutiae and the age of individuals gave significant results only for the number of minutiae on dermal fingerprints – it decreased with increasing age. The results suggest it is more difficult to identify minutiae on dermal fingerprints of elderly individuals when compared to epidermal fingerprints and the identification of persons using the comparison of these two skin layers is less than reliable. However, in the light of project limitations from which the small sample size and the lack of expertise are probably the most influencing, the findings need to be interpreted with caution and the requirement for further and more extensive research is recognised.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorLucina Hackman (Supervisor)


  • dermal fingerprints
  • Thiel

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