What makes us unique? It's on the tip of my... finger!

By Catherine Heath

We are all humans, but we are quite different from each other. Not just in how we look, but everything inside us as well. Every living thing is unique!

One of the things that makes a person unique is their fingerprints.

No two people have the same fingerprints, even identical twins! Each fingerprint is different, even on your own hands.

Types of fingerprint

There are three general types of fingerprint pattern:

General fingerprint patterns 


  • Arches occur in 5 % of fingerprints, these are the rarest!
  • Loops occur in 60 – 70 % of fingerprints, these are the most common!
  • Whorls occur in 25 – 35 % of fingerprints

Let’s have a closer look at your fingerprints to see which type you have!

You will need:

  1. A dark marker pen
  2. A balloon

Watch the quick video below to see how to do it:

If you don’t fancy the video, follow the instructions below:

  1. Colour in your thumb with a dark marker pen
  2. Press your thumb onto a balloon and hold it there for 20 seconds
  3. Let your print dry for a minute
  4. Blow up your balloon until it's larger enough to see the print

Which type of fingerprint do you have on your thumb? How about on your fingers? Do you have a rare type of fingerprint?

As fingerprints are unique, they are useful for identifying people. Fingerprints are helpful for security at the airport and for fingerprint access to computers. Fingerprints can help identify if someone was at a crime scene.  

Have a go at lifting a fingerprint from a glass. This is like taking a fingerprint from a crime scene!

You will need:

  1. Moisturizer / Cream
  2. A glass or jar
  3. Tape
  4. Coco powder / drinking chocolate
  5. Paper
  6. A brush (or just your breath is fine!)

Watch the video to see how to do it:

The three types of fingerprint can actually be split into more specific patterns:

More specific fingerprints


Which specific type of fingerprint pattern do you have?

Why do we have fingerprints?  

It was first thought that we have fingerprints to help us grip things, but scientists aren’t so sure. Fingerprints might be useful to help us grip things when the surface is rough or wet. They might improve how sensitive we are to touch, or they might protect our fingers. Fingerprints might be useful for all these things!

How do fingerprints form?

Fingerprints form in the womb, before a baby is born. It is the conditions you are exposed to in the womb, and your DNA, that gives everyone a unique set of fingerprints. 

Every living thing has DNA! DNA, and the surrounding environment, determines who we are and what we look like. Our DNA carries the instructions for making our bodies. DNA controls things like what eye colour we have and how our brain works. 

For more information and experiments on DNA, see our other posts in the “Life” discussion!

We share about 99% of our DNA with other humans, and about 99% of our DNA with Chimpanzees! What makes us unique comes down to a tiny amount of DNA.

So what is in this 1% of DNA that makes us unique? TBC…….