Geek Trivia

Which Of These Mammals Has Fingerprints Virtually Indistinguishable From A Human’s?

Panda Bear
Slow Lorax
Which Sci-Fi Character's Name Has Become The Go-To Answer For Nonsensical Questions In France?

Answer: Koala

If you’re looking for animals with fingerprints at all, let alone fingerprints like a human being has, it makes sense to look at our closest primate relatives like chimpanzees and gorillas—both of which have fairly human-like fingerprints as you might expect. What you might not expect is that the very distantly related mammal, the koala, also has fingerprints.

Not only do koalas have fingerprints (a relatively recent and totally independent-from-primates evolutionary adaptation), but those fingerprints are shockingly human-like. So human-like, in fact, that even when studied with modern forensic tools, it’s nearly impossible to tell them apart. Even on a tiny scanning electron microscope level—the image here is of a koala fingerprint and surface area (left) and a human one (right)—the surface of a koala’s finger pads look like a human’s fingertips.

Thankfully, there are very few situations where a koala’s fingerprints are all over a crime scene, so the similarity remains mostly a biological curiosity and not a problem for criminal investigations.

Image courtesy of Macie Hennenberg, et al. and naturalSCIENCE.