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Dermatoglyphics of Easter Islanders analyzed by pattern type admixture effect and ridge count variation.

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Dermatoglyphics of Easter Islanders Analyzed by
Pattern Type, Admixture Effect, and
Ridge Count Variation
ROBERT J. MEIER
Department of Anthropology, Indiana University,
Bloomington, l n d i a n a 47401
KEY WORDS
Dermatoglyphics
. Easter Islanders . Polynesians.
ABSTRACT
The adult Easter Island population was fingerprinted in 1965 as
part of an overall study of their human biology. Major findings of the dermatoglyphic analysis are as follows. Digit and bimanuar percentages of patterns
(arches, loops, and whorls) were similar to those observed in Europeans. However, in terms of total pattern type distributions, the Islanders had many more
whorls and a correspondingly much higher Pattern Intensity Index than those
found in European groups. This difference was even present, although in lesser
magnitude, in Easter Islanders known to be admixed with Europeans. Corresponding to a high occurrence of whorls, Mean Total Ridge Count (TRC) was
also notably high. An association between TRC as a measure of pattern size and
incidence of patterns was clearly evident in several groups available for comparison.
Human biological research was conducted on Easter Island by the author between December, 1964, and February,
1965, a s part of a medical expedition directed by Dr. Stanley C . Skoryna, McGill
University, a Canadian contribution to the
International Biological Programme. Although Easter Island is distantly separated
from other islands in eastern Polynesia
(roughly 2000 miles from Tahiti) and from
coastal South America (some 2300 miles
from Peru), Easter Islanders have experienced considerable impact from the
outside world. At the time of the study,
there were approximately 1000 Polynesians inhabiting the island. This number,
however, marked a recent high in census
recovery following population decimation
from slave raids and epidemics on the
island during the second half of the last
century. Based upon genealogical information, it was apparent that gene flow had
also played a significant role in altering
the composition of the population during
its period of rapid growth beginning at the
turn of the century. Given this historical
background, a two-fold objective was esAM. <I. P H Y S . ANTHROP., 42: 269-276.
tablished to record phenotypic variation
among the islanders to reconstruct some
of their more recent evolutionary history,
and to set down a foundation from which
to assess future alterations likely to occur
in the population (Meier, '69).
As one aspect of the study dermatoglyphic data were collected and analyzed
for (1) apical pattern types, ( 2 ) racial
admixture and pattern types, ( 3 ) ridge
counts, and ( 4 ) associations between pattern type and ridge count.
METHODS
The dermatoglyphic sample consisted of
persons 18 years and older who were available for printing. The total sample of 296
individuals included nearly all adult Polynesians on the island.
Hand impressions were made using
Faurot Inkless materials. Apical patterns
were classified according to the basic
arch-loop-whorl system devised by Galton
(1892). Ridge-counts were made on loops
1 This report i s a revision of a chapter from a doctoral dissertation submitted by Robert J. Meier to the
University of Wisconsin.
269
270
ROBERT J . MEIER
and whorls according to procedures given
by Holt ('61).
Sex variation. Males had more whorl
patterns and fewer ulnar loops than females on the right hand, but the opposite
was true for the left side. Due to these
offsetting tendencies, there was little difference between the sexes in total frequencies of whorls and ulnar loops. A higher
percent of radial loops was observed in
males, while females had more than four
times as many arch patterns as males.
x 2 tests for sex differences in pattern
frequencies for each hand treated separately were both highly significant. (Values
were for right hand 12.426 and left hand
15.993.) I n each case, most of the contribution to 'x was due to variation in arch
pattern frequency.
With minor exceptions, the variations
described above for digit, hand, and sex
are the same a s those observed in European fingerprint data (Cummins and
Midlo, '61). However, differences are
marked i n total pattern frequencies between Europeans and Easter Islanders. For
example, compared to Easter Islanders,
Europeans generally have about 20%
fewer whorls and corresponding increases
in frequencies of arches and both loop pattern types. Conversely, Easter Island does
not differ as much from some Polynesian
groups for total pattern frequencies as it
RESULTS
Apical pattern types
As can be seen in table 1, basic fingerprint pattern types are not evenly distributed over the digits. Furthermore, there
are obvious bimanuar and sex differences
in pattern frequencies. The major variations are described below.
Digit and bimanuar variations. I and IV
had the highest frequencies of whorls. For
these digits, whorls were more often found
on the right hand of both sexes. I1 also
carried numerous whorl patterns, but more
frequently on the left side. Ulnar loop patterns were especially prevalent on V, with
I11 the next most common site. Radial
loops were almost exclusively found on I1
and more often on the right hand. Arches
were also nearly always confined to Digit
I1 in males, but present on other digits in
females.
A test for bimanuar differences in pattern distribution was significant in males
(x' 18.628) but not in females (x' 3.626).
The largest contribution to x2 in males was
attributed to disproportionate numbers of
whorls on the right side and to ulnar
loops on the left hand,
TABLE 1
Percentage distribution of fingerprint patterns, b y sex, digit, and hand
Ulnar
Whorl
NO.
Digit
Radial
loop
loop
Arch
M
F
M
F
M
F
M
F
M
F
I
I1
111
IV
V
I-V
145
145
146
146
144
726
150
150
150
149
149
748
70.3
59.3
41.8
80.1
34.7
57.3
65.3
58.0
44.7
77.2
30.2
55.1
Right
29.7
29.0
58.2
19.9
65.3
40.4
32.0
32.7
53.3
22.1
69.1
41.8
0
10.3
0
0
0
2.1
0
5.3
0
1.4
0
0
0
0.3
2.7
4.0
2.0
0.7
0.7
2.0
I
I1
I11
146
146
146
143
143
724
150
150
150
150
150
750
52.1
59.6
44.5
61.5
25.9
48.8
56.7
60.7
52.0
64.0
29.3
52.5
Left
47.9
34.2
53.4
38.5
74.1
49.6
39.3
32.0
42.7
34.0
69.3
43.5
0
4.1
0
0
0
0.8
0
0
2.1
2.1
0
0.7
0.7
0.8
4.0
5.3
4.7
2.0
0.7
3.3
1450
1498
53.0
53.8
45.0
42.7
1.4
0.9
0.6
2.7
IV
V
I-V
0
0
0
1.1
0
2.0
0.7
0
R and L,
I-v
DERMATOGLYPHICS OF EASTER ISLANDERS
does in digit, hand, and sex variations in
pattern distributions. For instance, unlike
Easter Islanders, males from samples of
Maoris (Veale and Adams, '65) and
Samoans (Shima, '63) had more arch patterns on the right side than on the left,
although in both series the total frequency
of arches was extremely low. A higher frequency of whorls in males than in females
is commonly observed in Polynesians and
Europeans. The reverse was true for Easter
Islanders, Maupiti Islanders of mixed Poly
nesian-European origin (Shima, '63), and
Hawaiians (Cummins and Snow, '66).
Dermatoglyphic similarities between Easter
Island and Maupiti Island were also observed in a much greater bimanuar pattern
frequency asymmetry in males than in
females, and in a shift from I and IV on
the right side to I1 and IV on the left side,
for the highest frequencies of whorl patterns.
Racial admixture and
pattern types
For more detailed comparisons with
Polynesians, the total sample from Easter
Island was divided by racial admixture as
determined from genealogical records into
three subgroups : ( 1) Easter Islanders
without admixture, ( 2 ) IsIanders admixed
only with other Polynesians (mainly Tahitians, Tuamotuans, and Mangarevans),
and (3) Islanders with European admixture
(mostly French and English) and a few
persons with European-Polynesian ancestry. A similar procedure in other studies
of Polynesians provides some information
on alterations in fingerprint pattern frequencies due to racial admixture.
Table 2 lists basic pattern frequencies
for various Polynesian samples. Considering first of all only those samples reportedly free of any recent admixture, the predominant pattern type consists of whorls.
Whorl frequencies vary widely, ranging
from a near world-wide high value of 80%
in male Maupiti Islanders to slightly more
than 50% in Easter Island females. Loop
pattern frequency shows a corresponding
rise with the reduction of whorls, since
arches remain consistently low in incidence
or in some samples are entirely absent,
This kind of pattern distribution is common to other groups in and adjacent to
27 1
the western Pacific area (Shima, '63;
Veale and Adams, '65).
Polynesian fingerprint data consist of
single samples from the widest possible
sources within this Oceanic cultural area.
Small samples, due to the few non-admixed
individuals presently available, often contain a high proportion of related persons.
These factors unquestionably affect any
interpretations concerned with reconstructing inter-population relationships. One can
only speculate that Maupiti Islanders from
the Society Island group and the Maoris of
North Island in New Zealand show rather
similar pattern frequencies because of their
fairly recent historical connections. The
same argument, however, would not explain Easter Island-Samoan similarities.
These two groups may both have comparatively low whorl frequencies due to known
and undetected European admixture.
Evidence that European gene flow into
Polynesia has affected dermatoglyphics
can be seen in table 2. When one compares hybrid samples with non-admixed
samples of the same breeding population,
a decline in whorl frequency becomes apparent, and is more pronounced i n males
than in females.
In Easter Islanders, non-admixed males
were found to be significantly different
from those males having European ancestry (x' 8.323). The admixed group had
relatively more loops and fewer whorls
than the non-admixed group. Non-admixed
Island females were also significantly different from Easter Island-European hybrid
females (x' 8.391), but disproportionality
was primarily due to a high frequency of
arches in the hybrid females.
Compared with the non-admixed islanders, males in th Easter Island-Polynesian
group showed a lower and females a higher
percentage of whorls, not statistically significant in either sex. The rather uncommon finding of more whorls in females
than in males existed in the Easter
Island-Polynesian group, in Hawaiian and
Maupiti-European samples, and i n about
one-third of various non-Polynesian peoples (Cummins and Midlo, '61: 273).
Pattern Intensity values in table 2 provide a convenieiit summary of differences
between non-admixed Polynesian samples,
the index ranging from slightly less than
272
ROBERT J. MEIER
TABLE 2
Percentages of basic fingerprint patterns i n Polynesians
Racial
classification
Sex
Without
admixture
Male
Female
25
13
0
0
17.6
23.1
82.4
76.9
18.2
17.7
European
admixture
Male
Female
47
36
0.6
1.1
32.4
24.2
67.0
74.7
16.6
17.4
Chinese
admixture
Male
Female
8
9
0
3.3
28.8
43.4
71.3
62.2
17.1
15.9
Tahoe Maoris
Male
Female
65
86
0.3
0.5
22.6
30.9
77.1
68.6
17.7
16.8
English
admixture
Male
Female
165
50
0.7
0.4
27.7
30.0
71.6
69.6
17.1
16.9
European
admixture
Male
Female
200
100
0.4
0.9
36.0
43.1
63.7
56.0
16.3
15.5
(Suzuki, '61 )
Male
Female
43
82
0.2
0
39.1
41.2
60.7
58.8
16.0
15.9
(Shima, '63)
Male
Female
157
153
0.8
1.4
40.8
42.0
58.3
56.6
15.7
15.5
Without
admixture
Male
Female
18
22
0.5
39.8
48.6
59.1
50.9
15.8
15.0
Polynesian
admixture
Male
Female
58
57
0.7
1.2
43.4
40.1
55.9
58.7
15.5
15.7
European
admixture
Male
Female
70
71
0.3
4.5
50.6
44.7
49.1
50.8
14.9
14.6
No.
Arch
Loop
Whorl
Pattern
intensity
Mazcpiti Islanders ( S h i m a , ' 6 3 )
Maoris (Veale and Adams, ' 6 5 )
Samoans
Easter Islanders ( t h i s s t u d y )
16 in Easter Islanders to more than 18 in
the Maupiti Islanders. The remaining
Island series fall between these limits,
separated from each other by approximately one-half of a n index unit. Polynesians share their high whorl status with
Micronesians, Melanesians, and Australian
Aborigines. These Oceanic peoples generally have correspondingly higher Pattern
Intensity values than Asiatic Mongoloids,
Eskimos, and American Indians.
Pattern size (ridge-counting )
Results for the total sample of Easter
Islanders are presented in table 3 for each
sex. Mean TRC was substantially higher
than those means obtained for Europeans
(Holt, '55; Da Cunha et al., '54; Lamy
et al., '57; Book, '57), for several samples
from India (Mavalwala, '63; Singh, '61),
1.1
and from Africans (Huizinga, ' 6 5 ) , the
magnitude of difference generally exceeding 30 ridges for both sexes. Mean TRC
in a sample of Australian Aborigines
(Rao, '64) was approximately midway between that for Easter Island and the
groups listed above; as in Easter Islanders,
their predominant pattern was the whorl
type.
Males commonly have a higher percent
of whorls than females and tend to have
higher mean TRC. For Easter Islanders,
females had a slightly higher frequency of
whorls than males, but also more arches,
partially explaining their lower mean TRC.
This sex difference, nonsignificant according to a modified t-test (Snedecor, '62),
agrees with some studies (Holt, '49;
Mavalwala, '63), while other workers have
observed significantly higher mean total
273
DERMATOGLYPHICS OF EASTER ISLANDERS
TABLE 3
Total ridge-count ( T R C ) i n Easter Islanders
Sex
Males
Females
NO.
140
146
Range
Mean
70-324
44-305
177.10
161.09
ridge-counts in their male samples (Da
Cunha et al., '54; Book, '57; Holt, '55;
Huizinga, '65).
Association between pattern type
and pattern size
Huizinga ('65) demonstrated a definite
tendency for arch and loop pattern frequencies to be negatively associated with
mean total ridge-count, but a n obvious
positive relation between whorl frequency
and mean TRC. These general tendencies
were maintained when Easter Island fingerprint frequencies were added to the eleven
groups considered by Huizinga. A somewhat different and more precise approach
relating Pattern Intensity to Total Ridge
Count has been followed by Glanville and
Huizinga ('66) and Basu and Namboodiri
('71).
Mean number of ridges for various pattern counts in Easter Islanders are presented in table 4. These results show
whorl patterns larger than ulnar loops
with in turn higher average ridge-counts
than the comparatively few radial loops.
Males had higher mean counts for whorl
and ulnar loop patterns, but slightly
smaller radial loops than females.
Variation among the four whorl counts
provides a measure of pattern asymmetry.
Completely symmetrical whorls, i.e. all
four whorl counts identical, occurred in
only 3.5% of cases because most of the
whorls had more ridges on the radial side.
This radial orientation of whorls contrasts
with loop orientation. Ulnar loops had the
higher average ridge-count, and in all populations, ulnar loops are much more frequent than radial loops.
Table 5 compares several groups for
pattern type and size, and shows Easter
Islanders with the highest average ulnar
loop and whorl ridge counts. This finding
and their high whorl frequency explains
their high TRC.
In these eight series, average whorl size
is 1.5 to almost 2 times larger than aver-
S.D.
S.E.
C.V.
45.73
52.42
3.87
4.34
25.82
32.54
age ulnar loop size. Radial loop ridgecount was consistently small except in
Karluk Eskimo females, in whom the frequency of radial loops was very low.
These samples illustrate a tendency for
whorls to be replaced by arches and loops
in the total frequency distribution. An exception was the Karluk males with a fairly
high proportion of arches and a sizeable
percentage of whorls, which explains in
part their comparatively low mean TRC,
differing little from Maya Indians and the
Dutch and Enghsh samples. Similarities
among these differently-related groups in
mean TRC point out possible dangers in
using ridge-count as a measure of interpopulation affinity, I n order to evaluate
mean TRC properly, pattern frequency distribution and interpopulation variation in
pattern size must also be considered, a
point appreciated almost forty years ago
by Cummins and Steggerda ('36; 115).
CONCLUSIONS
There is no direct way of ascertaining
what affects 19th century slave raids and
epidemics had upon changing the biological composition of Easter Islanders. However, since the population was reduced
from a n estimated few thousand persons
in the early 1800s to hardly more than 150
persons by the 1880's (Mktraux, '40), it
would seem inevitable that biological
change occurred. Furthermore, population
recovery beginning around the turn of this
century involved gene flow from European
sources, as well as from other Polynesian
islands. Because gene flow operated at a
time when the population was at its lowest
number, the likelihood for biological modification upon Easter Island was greatly
enhanced.
The dermatoglyphic data reported in
this study apparently only document a n
effect of gene flow, evidenced a s a reduction in whorl pattern frequency and lower
Pattern Intensity Index for European-
274
ROBERT J . MEIER
TABLE 4
Average ridge-count
per pattern type in Easter Islanders
Loops
Count
RLC
Whorls
ULC
uwc
LWC
RWC
756
14.45
5.21
756
19.60
5.49
756
15.90
6.45
783
13.70
5.37
783
18.55
5.14
783
14.98
6.57
HWC
Males
No.
Mean
S.D.
21
9.76
6.03
647
14.27
4.78
13
10.00
7.00
636
12.91
4.73
756
21.06
5.40
Females
No.
Mean
S.D.
783
19.82
5.21
~
~
1 RLC = Radial loop count; ULC = Ulnar loop count; HWC = Higher whorl count; LWC
whorl count; RWC = Radial whorl count; UWC = Ulnar whorl count.
= Lower
TABLE 5
Pattern size ( M R C ) , mean total ridge-count ( T R C ) , and pattern frequency ( % )
in five groups
~
Subjects
Arch
%
~
Radial L.
%
Whorl
Ulnar L.
MRC
%
MRC
%
MRC
TRC
Easter Islanders (this report)
Males
(146)
Females (150)
0.6
2.7
1.4
0.9
Males
(100)
Females (100)
6.8
-
Males
(56)
Females (40)
8.3
4.0
Total
9.3
6.0
7.0
British
-
45.0
42.7
14.3
12.9
53.0
53.8
21.1
19.8
177.1
161.1
12.9
12.1
26.7
-
19.6
18.3
142.5
130.4
42.3
40.5
17.3
15.4
120.8
122.3
20.2
19.4
122.3
42.3
17.3
119.1
(Holt, '49; '61 )
-
66.5
-
Karluk Eskimos (Meier, '66)
2.5
1.8
7.5
13.3
46.9
53.8
10.6
10.9
Dutch 2 (Cummins and Steggerda, ' 3 5 )
(113)
5.5
8.2
65.0
11.4
Maya Indians (Cummins and Steggerda, ' 3 6 )
Total
(127)
7.6
2.2
6.8
57.0
9.9
Fingerprint pattern percentages taken from Biswas ('63).
2 Ridge-count averages calculated from Griineberg ('28) class values.
1
admixed Islanders compared to Islanders
without admixture. This conclusion, of
course, rests upon the assumption that
non-admixed Islanders are representative
of an earlier, larger Island population.
Dermatoglyphic data on Polynesians,
scarce and scattered, means that clear
assessments of Easter Island relationships
to other Polynesians could not be made.
Shapiro, in a pioneer anthropometric study
('40; 28), came to the conclusion that,
"Easter Islanders fit into the Polynesian
physical pattern, although in several traits,
particularly in cephalic proportions, they
occupy an extreme position." Results from
a more recent study (Meier, in preparation) indicate that as in the case of dermatoglyphics, gene flow also has tended
to reduce the amount of anthropometric
differences between Easter Islanders and
other Polynesian groups.
Those conditions which brought about
biological uniqueness, isolation and small
effective population size, have been substantially removed at the present time.
Hence, continued biological change among
Easter Islanders can be expected to become increasingly more dependent upon
the direction and magnitude of outside influences.
DERMATOGLYPHICS OF EASTER ISLANDERS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I am grateful to Dr. Stanley C . Skoryna
and Prof. William S. Laughlin for providing me the opportunity to conduct research
on Easter Island, I would also like to express my appreciation to the Easter Islanders, who were somehow able to endure
a seemingly endless barrage of measurements and tests. Financial support was received through a NIDR Traineeship held
by the author while a graduate student
at the University of Wisconsin.
LITERATURE CITED
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Book, J. A. 1957 Frequency distributions of
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Cummins, H., and M. Steggerda 1935 Finger
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1936 Finger prints in Maya Indians.
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Cummins, H., and C. Midlo 1961 Finger Prints,
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York.
Cummins, H., and C. E. Snow 1966 Dermatoglyphics of full-blood Hawaiians. Tokyo, Eleventh Pacific Science Congress, Paper No. 45.
Da Cunha, A. S., and M. D. A. Abreu 1954 Impressoes digitais de Portugueses. Contr. Estud.
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lichen Tastfiguren. Zeit. f . indukt. Abst. -u.
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Holt, S. B. 1949 A quantitative survey of the
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population. Annals of Eugenics, 14: 329-338.
1955 Genetics of dermal ridges: frequency distribution of total finger ridge-count.
Annals of Hum. Gen., 20: 159-163.
1961 Dermatoglyphic patterns. In: Genetical Variation in Human Populations, G. A.
Harrison, ed. Pergammon Press, New York.
Huizinga, J. 1965 Finger patterns and ridge
counts of the Dogons. Proceedings Koninkleide
Nederlandse Akademie van WetenschappenAmsterdam, Series C, 68: 398-411.
Lamy, M., J. de Grouchy Frezal, and J . Kelley
1957 Le nombre de dermatoglyphes dans un
echantillon de Jumeaux. Annals of Hum. Gen.,
21: 374-96.
Mavalwala, J. 1963 Quantitative analysis of
finger ridge counts of the Parsi community in
India. Annals of Hum. Gen., 26: 305-313.
Meier, R. J. 1966 Fingerprint patterns from
Karluk Village, Kodiak Island. Arctic Anthropology, 3: 206-210.
1969 The Easter Islander: A Study in
Human Biology. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Wisconsin, Madison.
A Penrose Analysis of Easter Island Biological Relationships, i n preparation.
MBtraux, A. 1940 Ethnology of Easter Island.
B. P. Bishop Museum Bulletin, 160: 432.
Rao, P. D. R. 1964 Finger prints of aborigines
at Kalumburu Mission in Western Australia.
Oceania, 34: 225-233.
Shapiro, H. L. 1940 The physical relationships
of the Easter Islanders. In: Ethnology of Easter
Island, Alfred M6traux. B. P. Bishop Museum
Bulletin, Honolulu, 160: 24-30.
Shima, G.
1963 Uber das Hautleistensystem
der Finger und Zehen beeren der Polynesier
und der gemischten Polynesier. Osaka City
Univ. Med. Journ. 9: 53-66.
Singh, R. D. 1961 Digital pattern frequency
and size variations i n some castes of Utter
Pradesh. East. Anthrop. (Lukow) 14: 169-181.
Snedecor, G. W. 1962 Statistical Methods. The
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