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Digital dermatoglyphics of the Faroe Islanders.

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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. Percentage fiequencies of digital patterns and mean pattern intensity index (PII) for uarious European populations
>
2
W
n
?
rp
b P
w
DERMATOGLYPHICS OF THE FAROESE
LITERATURE CITED
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