Do other primates, such as apes, chimps, and monkeys, also have fingerprints?
If so, are they also unique to that individual? Jeff, Corrales, NM
Yes to your first question and yes to the second,
and, even more surprising--some monkeys have
fingerprints on their tails.
The chimpanzee, Bonobo. Photo courtesy of Kabir Bakie and Wikipedia.
"All primates have fingerprints on hands and
feet, and a few New World monkeys have them
on their prehensile tails as well," says Jeff
Froehlich, Professor of Anthropology at the
University of New Mexico.
No other mammal has fingerprints, only we
primates do. The non-human primate fetus
develops fingerprints as a human does, during
the first trimester of gestation. According to
Jeff, there is just enough "noise" in the genetic
system (fetal position, cleavage of the egg in
twins, etc.) so all individuals are unique,
although identical twins are about 95 percent
Jeff uses the fingerprints of primates he studies
to classify them and examine their evolutionary relationships. Based largely on their
fingerprints, he has just categorized and named a new monkey species in Indonesia.
Ken Gander, Director of the Duke University Primate Center, has been studying the same
population of mantled howling monkeys in Costa Rica since 1970. He has collected about
500 nonhuman fingerprints during the past 30 years, using the same material and
technique the police use to take fingerprints.
"In fact," he says, "I order my fingerprinting supplies from the police supply house."
Duke University Primate