Fingerprints of fingerless organisms

Quelle: Annals of Improbable Research 1(5): 26-27 (1995)

by Mark Benecke

Zoologisches Institut der Universitaet, Koeln, Germany

We developed a method to obtain fingerprint patterns of microscopic animals which have neither arms nor fingers. Two species are discussed here.

The Usefulness of Fingerprinting

Fingerless organisms can be as deadly as any human criminal. When loosed upona law-abiding public, they have been known to cause malaria and other tropical diseases. Criminologists have good reason to identify and catch the individual organisms responsible for such crimes. We often hear and read about criminal cases being solved by fingerprints. Nowadays, so-called "genetic fingerprints" are also used, especially in forensic medicine. The classical and the genetic fingerprinting methods are both powerful but limited. !t is hard to carry out the classical fingerprint technique in organisms without fingers, and the genetic method is quite expensive. Our method is cheap and simple.

How we do it

We apply a short treatment of silver nitrate and other standard photographic chemicals. This causes the fingerprint to appear.


Figures la and 2a show the "slipper animaI" (Paramecium caudatum), which is very common in fresh water. Elevations and grooves are clearly visible (Figure 2a) and allow us to make individual identifications. Other organisms, e.g. the "trumpet animaI" (Stentor polymorphus) (Figure Ib), show fundamentally different fingerprint patterns which often are much more beautiful and at the same time highly informative. Note that in Stentor, not only grooves are visible, but also winding lines and nice-looking dots (Figure 2b).

Future Hopes for Criminologists

In the future, using improved techniques, we should be able to ob ta in fingerprints not only of fingerless organisms but also of bodiless, supernatural beings such as zombies, ghouls and speeters which, in many countries, are of great interest to criminal investigators.