AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 61:337-345 (1983) Digital Dermatoglyphics of the Faroe Islanders ROBIN G. HARVEY AND DIANA SUTER SubDepartment of Anthropology, British Museum (Natural History), London S W7 5BD, England KEY WORDS Dermatoglyphics, Digits, Faroe Islands, Northwest European populations ABSTRACT Finger dermatoglyphics of 446 male and 463 female Faroe Islanders are described. According to birthplace information for their grandparents the individuals sampled are considered to be representative of all regions of the Faroes. Pattern frequencies are given for individual digits and the tables contain mean radial, ulnar, and unilateral maximal ridge counts. Overall frequencies of patterns and mean total ridge counts in both sexes are compared with other populations in northwestern Europe, several of which have had close historical connections with the Faroes. The Faroese have exceptionally high frequencies of arch and ulnar loop patterns, making their mean pattern intensity index values among the lowest in Europe. Low mean total ridge counts are also characteristic of this population. Icelanders show closer dermatoglyphic resemblance to the Faroese than any other European populations. Low mean total ridge counts among Shetland and Orkney Islanders are noteworthy, and it is possible that the resemblance between these North Atlantic island populations is due to common ancestry arising from Viking settlement during the 8th and 9th centuries. The operation of random genetic drift on the gene pool of the Faroe Islanders is another factor to be considered when assessing their biological affinities. Dermatoglyphics of the Faroe Islanders were collected for the first time in 1977 during a n extensive anthropological survey which has been the subject of several preliminary reports (Suter et al., 1979; Harvey et al., 1980; Harvey and Suter, 1982a). The initial fieldwork produced digital dermatoglyphic data for 296 Faroese which were used by Suter and Harvey (1981)in a study of the relationship between pattern intensity index (PII), total ridge count (TRC),and the mean ridge count of whorls and ulnar loops, and later in a developmental interpretation of the regression of digital ridge counts on PI1 (Suter, 1982). Further fieldwork in 1979 extended the sample, and the aim of the current paper is to present a detailed description of the digital dermatoglyphics of this larger and more representative sample of 909 Faroe Islanders. The results are compared with those of other populations in Northwest Europe, several of which have had close historical connections with the Faroes since the latter were settled by Vikings early in the 9th century. @ 1983 ALAN R. LISS, INC. MATERIALS AND METHODS Secondary schools provided the majority of survey subjects but prints were also obtained from trainee teachers and navigators. Some prints were taken using the “Kleenprint” method, but the majority were made using Ozalid “Durester Printake” material, which was found to give superior results. Individuals with more than two grandparents born outside the Faroe Islands were excluded. The final sample of 446 males and 463 females contains only 25 subjects (2.8%) with more than one non-Faroese grandparent. Of the 93 foreign birthplaces recorded for the grandparents 49 were in Denmark, 23 in Iceland, 10 in Norway and Sweden, six in Scotland, four in Greenland, and one in Ireland. Subjects were examined grade by grade within each educational institution and no attempt was made to exclude related individuals. However the sampling strategy Received September 9,1982; accepted January 27,1983. 338 R.G. HARVEY AND D.SUTER h FAROE ISLANDS 0 1977 1979 IKUVOY 0 10 2 0 km Fig. 1. Sampling locations used in the dermatoglyphic study. 339 DERMATOGLYPHICS OF THE FAROESE generally adopted was to include only the older age groups of children in each school, and this had the effect of limiting the number of first-degree relatives in the sample. The sampling localities for the dermatoglyphic study are shown in Figure 1. The Faroes were divided into seven geographical and administrative regions and samples were collected from localities in each region. The regional population sizes vary considerably, the capital Torshavn currently housing over a third of the total population of approximately 43,000. To determine whether the dermatoglyphic sample could be considered representative of the total Faroese population, subjects were assigned to a region if at least three grandparents had been born there. Four hundred ninty-six of the 909 subjects were assigned in this manner, as shown in Table 1. With the exception of South Streymoy, the sampling is approximately in proportion to the regional distribution of the total Faroese population around the time that the grandparents of the survey subjects were born. South Streymoy contains Torshavn, the population of which is composed of a sizable proportion of migrants from the other Faroe regions. Its omission has therefore only a small effect on the degree of proportional representation of the Faroe regions in the total sample. Digital patterns were classified using a n elevenfold system, following the methods of Henry (1905)and Cummins and Midlo (1943). According to this methodology two types of bicentric patterns are distinguished twin loops, where lines traced from the two cores lead to opposite sides of the digit, and lateral pocket loops, where the two lines emerge on the same side (radial or ulnar). Central pocket loops were distinguished from asymmetric whorls by the ridge-counting method of Dennis (1977). Ridge counting, which included radial and ulnar counts of patterns with more than one triradius, was performed according to the methods given by Cummins and Midlo (1943) and Holt (1968). RESULTS The percentage frequencies of 11 digital patterns are given in Table 2. Plain arches are found most frequently on digits I1 and 111, least frequently on digit V. Digit 11 bears the largest proportion of tented arches (2.03.6%),digit I11 ranks second, and digit I has no examples of this pattern in either sex. Ulnar loops occur at a high frequency (about 90%)on digit V followed by digits 111, I, and IV.The majority of radial loops occur on digit I1 (21.6-33.0%), with the next highest frequencies on digit I11 (1.3-4.8%)and the lowest on digit V. Ulnar central pocket loops occur a t low frequencies on all digits except IV, where the patterns are more common (5.2-9.9%).The tendency for digit I1 to bear radially oriented patterns is also reflected in the higher frequency of radial central pocket loops (0.9-2.8%) associated with this digit than with other fingers. The largest number of bicentric patterns occurs on the thumb (7.3-13.7%)with 11 ranking a low second (1.94.7%).There is a radial to ulnar gradient in the frequency of bicentric patterns (I > I1 > 111 > IV > V). Accidentals are absent from digit rV and occur a t a frequency of less than 0.5% on all other digits. Bimanual differences in pattern frequencies With the exception of digit 11, plain arch patterns are more frequent on left hands than on right, the differences being most marked on digits 111 and I in males and digits 111, V, and I in females. Among males left hand digits have higher frequencies of ulnar loops TABLE 1. Regional assignment of 496 of the total sample of 909 dermatoglyphic subjects compared with the distribution o f the total Faroese population in 1906 Faroe region Northern Eysturoy N. Streymoy Vagar Sandoy Suduroy S. Streymoy Total Both sexes Males Females No. % 1906 Census population % 43 51 27 34 22 64 3 244 38 67 25 28 27 67 0 252 81 118 52 62 49 131 3 496 16.3 23.8 10.5 12.5 9.9 26.4 0.6 100.0 11.4 22.6 12.0 9.1 7.8 21.4 15.8 100.0 Males (n = 446) Arch Tented arch Ulnar loop Radial loop Ulnar central pocket Radial central pocket Ulnar lateral pocket Radial lateral pocket Twin loop Whorl Accidental Females (n = 463) Arch Tented arch Ulnar loo^ Radial loop Ulnar central pocket Radial central pocket Ulnar lateral pocket Radial lateral pocket Twin loop Whorl Accidental 11.4 2.0 41.3 27.4 0.7 0.9 0.7 2.2 1.3 12.1 0.0 19.7 3.0 36.1 25.0 0.6 1.3 0.2 1.3 1.1 11.7 0.0 9.1 0.0 70.2 1.3 0.2 0.2 0.4 2.2 4.8 11.4 0.2 I1 4.7 0.0 73.8 0.2 0.2 0.2 2.3 2.9 8.5 7.0 0.2 I 17.9 0.7 67.2 4.8 1.3 0.2 0.2 0.4 0.6 6.7 0.0 5.8 0.2 1.1 12.8 1.1 73.6 4.0 0.2 0.0 0.7 0.5 2.7 0.0 64.4 0.0 0.9 0.2 6.0 1.8 4.5 19.5 0.0 6.3 0.0 67.0 0.6 1.1 0.2 4.1 0.9 3.4 16.4 0.0 7.1 0.6 70.1 6.6 1.9 0.3 1.0 1.2 2.4 8.7 0.1 12.3 0.9 66.2 6.6 1.6 0.4 0.3 0.8 1.3 9.5 0.1 7.6 0.2 87.7 0.4 0.7 0.0 0.4 0.0 0.0 3.0 0.0 7.4 0.4 69.8 1.5 5.2 0.2 0.4 0.2 0.0 14.9 0.0 I 1.8 0.0 93.7 0.2 1.1 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.7 2.3 0.0 I-v 4.9 0.0 68.4 0.9 7.2 0.2 1.3 0.5 0.2 16.4 0.0 V 4.1 0.2 53.8 2.7 9.9 0.2 0.2 0.0 0.2 28.7 0.0 5.6 0.2 63.3 2.2 8.0 0.2 0.6 0.0 0.2 19.7 0.0 9.6 0.5 75.1 4.5 1.6 0.2 0.0 0.4 0.7 7.2 0.2 13.0 0.7 78.6 1.3 0.9 0.2 0.0 0.4 0.4 4.5 0.0 19.7 3.0 36.3 21.6 1.1 2.8 0.6 0.9 0.4 13.4 0.2 Right hand 111 Iv 12.8 3.6 30.7 33.0 0.2 1.6 0.4 3.4 0.9 13.4 0.0 I1 TABLE 2. Percentage frequencies of digital patterns Left hand 111 IV 11.0 0.8 66.8 5.9 1.9 0.6 0.8 0.6 1.1 10.4 0.1 0.5 1.4 1.1 1.3 14.7 0.1 9.7 0.8 67.5 5.2 2.2 0.7 1.2 0.4 0.9 11.3 0.1 3.9 0.0 92.2 0.4 0.2 0.0 0.7 0.0 0.0 2.6 0.0 3.1 All digits 6.7 0.7 66.4 7.3 2.5 0.4 1.2 1.2 1.8 11.7 0.1 6.2 0.9 62.6 8.1 I-V 1.8 0.0 89.2 0.2 3.1 0.0 0.5 0.0 0.0 4.7 0.5 V 34 1 DERMATOGLYPHICS O F THE FAROESE than right, especially on LIV, LII, and LI; however, there is no consistent bimanual difference in ulnar loop frequencies among females. True whorls and central pockets are generally more frequent on right hand digits than on left. Sex differencesin pattern frequencies Plain arches show the greatest frequency difference between the sexes, females having 4.3%more than males. The sex difference is most conspicuous on digit 11, least on N and is greater on left hands than on right. Females also have greater overall frequencies of ulnar loops, radial central pockets, and tented arches than males, but none of the frequency differences exceeds 0.4%.All other patterns, except accidentals where there is no sex difference, are more frequent in the males, the excess over females ranging from 0.4% in the case of ulnar lateral pockets to 1.4%in the case of radial loops. In the latter the difference is largely due to a greater proportion of radial loops on digits 11 and 111 of male right hands. Males have a higher frequency of bicentric patterns than females, predominantly on digits I and 11. With the exception of LI, true whorls are more frequent on all digits of the males, with marked sex differences on the digits that bear the greatest proportion of whorl patterns (RIV and Rr). The higher frequency of whorl and bicentric patterns in males is reflected in the sex differences in mean pattern intensity index (males PI1 = 11.15, S.D. = 3.00; females PI1 = 10.36, S.D. = 3.36; P < 0.0011. Digital ridge counts Summary statistics for maximum unilateral finger ridge counts, total ridge count (TRC), and absolute ridge count (ATRC) are given in Table 3. All the mean ridge counts of the males are higher than those of the females, and the differences are significant. With the exception of digit I11 in the males, the mean finger ridge counts of right hand digits are greater than those of the left; however, the differences are significant only on the thumb. The ranking of digits in order of magnitude of mean ridge counts is I > N > V > 111 > I1 in both sexes. Table 4 gives the summary statistics for radial and ulnar digital ridge counts. The ranking of radial counts is identical to that of the maximum unilateral finger ridge counts, confirming the tendency for patterns to have an ulnar orientation and hence larger radial than ulnar counts. The ranking of ulnar counts-11 > I > IV > III > V- can be attributed to three main factors; the high frequency of radial loops on digits I1 and I, the high frequency of whorls on IV, and the virtual absence of radially orientated patterns on digit V. Sex and bimanual differences in radial counts are similar to those of the maximum unilateral ridge counts and are dominated by the thumbs. In contrast the sex differences in ulnar counts are greatest on digit IV, where they are significant on both hands. Unlike the radial counts the bimanual differences in ulnar counts show no consistent trend toward larger mean values on the right hand. DISCUSSION With very few exceptions the above observations on the associations with sex and laterality of patterns with individual digits can be applied to any of the large samples of Europeans or European-derived populations where data for individual digits have been specified-for example, the Icelanders (Palsson and Schwidetzky, 19731, the Danes (Andersen, 19691, the people of the North Pennine Dales (Dennis and Sunderland, 19791, the Belgians of Viroinval (Bara, 19801, the population of Southwestern Ohio (Roche et al., 1979), and the American Caucasians (Plato et al., 1975). The exceptions concern relatively small differences in the rank order of pattern frequencies on the digits, which vary by sex and laterality within and between populations. The variations are largely confined to the middle ranking digits-for example, the positions of I, 111, and IV in the sequence V > (111,I, IV) > 11for the frequencies of ulnar loops. Highest and lowest rank positions are rarely affected. Right hands show considerably greater uniformity of ranking for all pattern frequencies than left, and, as noted by Andersen (19691, the ranking of digits by arch frequencies is less variable than by any of the other patterns. The ranking of digits by mean maximum unilateral ridge counts shows a high level of consistency among populations of European origin. In the data of Holt (19681, Dennis and Sunderland (19791, Vrydagh and Leguebe (19761, Andersen (19691, Jantz (1974), Roche et al. (19791, Bara (1980), Aue-Hauser (1976), and the present study, the rank order does not deviate from the sequence I > IV > V > 111 > I1 on right hands and has only one Mean S.D. Mean S.D. Mean Females: Females: Males: Males: 1.4~ ~2~ 9.7 6.5 8.5 6.3 I11 Left hand 1.5~ 13.7 6.6 12.2 7.0 Iv 1.74 11.5 5.6 9.8 5.7 V 2.6* 18.5 6.4 15.9' 6.8 I 1.4' 9.3 7.2 7.9 7.0 I1 1.0' 9.6 6.3 8.6 6.0 I11 Right hand 1.5* 14.0 6.7 12.5 7.0 N S.D. Right Mean S.D. Left Mean S.D. Right Mean S.D. Left Mean 15.7 6.9 12.4 6.4 18.3 6.4 14.9 5.9 r I 3.6 6.4 3.0 6.4 4.9 7.6 2.9 5.9 U 5.3 6.2 5.0 6.0 5.2 6.4 6.2 6.3 r I1 4.7 7.0 4.3 6.7 6.4 7.7 4.8 7.0 U 8.4 5.8 8.1 6.2 9.0 6.3 9.4 6.5 r 111 1.0 3.9 1.6 4.7 1.8 5.0 1.5 4.7 U 12.3 7.2 12.0 7.1 13.6 7.0 13.4 6.7 r N 3.2 5.7 2.6 5.5 4.9 6.9 3.1 6.1 U r 10.3 5.7 9.8 5.7 11.8 5.9 11.5 5.6 TABLE 4. Means and standard deviations of radial (r) and ulnar (u) digital ridge counts 2.i4 8.9 6.6 7.5 6.7 15.0' 5.9 12.9' 6.4 'P < 0.001for bimanual differences. 'P < 0.02 for sex differences. 3P < 0.002 for sex differences. 4P < 0.001 for sex differences. difference M-F %X -.. - Males (n = 446) Females (n = 463) I1 I V 0.4 2.0 U 0.3 1.9 0.4 5.9 0.8 2.7 1.ij4 11.8 5.9 10.3 5.7 V 15.84 122.1 51.0 106.3 51.1 20.54 145.2 76.3 124.7 72.5 Both hands TRC ATRC TABLE 3. Means and standard deviations of finger ridge counts, total ridge count (TRC), and absolute ridge count (ATRC) DERMATOGLYPHICS OF THE FAROESE relatively common variant on the Left (IV > I > V > I11 > 11). It is probable that the consistent relationship observed among Europeans is a reflection of the relatively narrow range of mean PI1 encompassed by these populations compared with PI1 variation on a global scale. There is evidence that among high PI1 populations the ranking is different, and that digits IV and V tend to occupy respectively the highest and lowest rank positions (Meier, 1981). Population comparisons Frequencies of the four classical pattern types, mean pattern intensity indices, and total ridge counts for various Northwest European populations are given in Tables 5 and 6. The populations have been selected for their geographical proximity or historical connections with the Faroes. Compared with these populations the Faroe Islanders have exceptionally high frequencies of whorls, making their mean PI1 values amongst the lowest in Europe. The low Faroese values of mean TRC, especially in the females, are also particularly noteworthy. Ridge counts are not available for the Icelanders, but according to their digital patterns the samples from the Dalasysla region of Western Iceland bear the closest dermatoglyphic resemblance to the Faroese. The Icelandic pattern frequencies generally show a closer similarity to the Faroe Islands values than any other European population, particularly those of the females. It is possible that this resemblance is due, at least in part, to common ancestry. The Faroes and Iceland were settled by Vikings in the 9th century; however, there is no equivalent of the Icelandic “Landnamabbk” to indicate whether the early settlers came mainly from Norway or from Viking settlements in Ireland, Scotland, and the Northern Isles and hence included wives and slaves of Celtic origin (Harvey et al., 1980).It is of interest that low mean values of total ridge count have been found in the samples of Orkney and Shetland Islanders, as these islands also have a history of Norse settlement (Boyce et al., 1973; Berry and Muir, 1975). It is possible that these similarities are due to characteristics that were common to the founders of the 8thand 9th-century communities in the North Atlantic Islands and which have persisted to a variable extent, depending on the amount of subsequent migration and admixture between Norse, Celtic, and modern Scandina- 343 vian populations. The limited data for Denmark and Sweden suggest that the ridge counts of 20th-century Scandinavians are considerably larger than those of the contemporary Faroese. It is also possible that the considerable dermatoglyphic divergence of the Faroese from other North Atlantic populations may be partly attributable to genetic effects from small population size and a very low rate of migration from other parts of Europe (mainly Denmark). Although there are now over 43,000 people in the Faroe Islands, for most of their history the population was probably no greater than 5,000 (West, 1972; Harvey and Suter, 198213). Opportunities for random genetic drift to operate on the small isolated regional communities would almost certainly have been present, although its effects on dermatoglyphic variables would be dificult to assess. Genetic marker data currently being analyzed for various regional subdivisions of the Faroes (Tills et al., in preparation) may help to elucidate the extent of genetic drift in the Faroe archipelago. The Faroe Islanders emerge from this study, together with the Dalasysla people of Iceland, as being a t one extreme of the range of dermatoglyphic variation in Europe. In addition t o the collection of fingerprints the fieldwork also included the printing of palmar dermatoglyphics, among which Harvey (1982) has described a n exceptionally high frequency of hypothenar radial arches. Future publications will describe other aspects of the palmar data and will discuss intrapopulation variability of dermatoglyphic characteristics. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This study was supported by the British Museum (Natural History) and the Danish Medical Research Council. The authors thank Professor Mogens Hauge (Odense University) for planning and coordinating the initial period of fieldwork in the Faroe Islands (1977). We are grateful to Professor D. F. Roberts and Dr. V. Muir for permitting us to quote unpublished data for Cumbria, Orkney, and Shetland populations, and we thank Dr. E. J. Clegg for the loan of Aberdeen University record cards which contained the digital prints of the sample of 374 medical students. Finally we thank the principals, teachers, and students of Faroese educational institutions for their cooperation in the dermatoglyphic survey. 'Aberdeen University students. Faroe Is. Orkney Shetland Scotland (North)' England (Cumbria) Sweden Denmark England (Pennines) Population 'Aberdeen University students. 'Personal communication to R.G.H. Shetland Scotland (North) England (Cumbria) England (Pennines) Norway Orkney Iceland (Reykjavik) Denmark F M F M F M F M M F M&F M F M F M F M Faroe Is. Iceland (Dalasysla) sex Population 446 981 201 255 407 204 1,079 1,773 N 122.1 121.9 123.8 127.8 139.0 139.7 138.2 149.5 Males Mean 51.0 48.9 47.7 47.9 41.1 49.5 50.0 49.3 S.D. 463 908 222 119 595 188 1,075 2,091 N 106.3 115.3 115.3 120.9 117.0 120.7 129.4 135.8 Females Mean TABLE 6. Total ridge count in various European populations 62.3 62.4 63.0 66.4 4.3 7.0 3.7 5.9 407 595 1,808 2,132 24.4 26.4 27.5 25.8 27.0 22.7 6.0 5.0 5.9 4.8 6.3 5.0 63.7 60.1 5.9 8.5 426 225 119 28.4 24.7 25.7 27.0 25.2 26.5 5.1 4.0 5.8 5.6 4.6 7.6 60.0 61.7 61.1 60.9 62.6 59.6 6.5 9.6 7.4 6.4 7.5 6.2 8,960 9,990 24,518 981 908 51.1 48.1 47.7 49.4 44.7 52.8 49.9 52.7 S.D. 12.3 11.8 12.3 11.9 12.4 11.7 12.2 11.5 11.8 12.1 11.8 12.0 12.2 11.1 26.7 18.7 5.9 5.2 62.1 67.9 5.2 8.2 18.9 15.4 21.7 16.8 471 488 PI1 11.2 10.4 11.5 10.5 Whorls 7.3 5.9 7.0 4.3 66.4 66.8 64.6 65.7 Radial loops Ulnar loops 7.4 11.8 6.8 13.2 Arches 446 463 158 129 N Source Source (1979) Present study Muir (1977) Muir (1977) Suter (unpublished) Roberts and Muir (1978) Book (1957) Andersen (1969) Dennis and Sunderland (1979) Dennis and Sutherland (197€02 Roberts and Muir Berry and Muir (1975) Suter (unpublished)' Bonnevie (1924) Muir (1977) Palsson and Schwidetzky (1973) Palsson and Schwidetzky (1973) Andersen (1969) Present study TABLE 5. 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