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Standing Out From the Herd


CreditVictoria Roberts

A. Scientists generally agree that closely related species like gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans have ridge patterns on fingers and toes that resemble those of humans and can be used to identify individuals. As with humans, no two individuals with the same prints have been found.

Scientists have identified another species with similar prints: the koala. The distribution patterns of loops, whorls and arches on the koala’s palms and feet are clearly distinguishable from those found in humans, although they bear a resemblance.

Other characteristics have been used to identify individuals of a species, notably stripe patterns in cattle and zebras.

A database of stripe patterns has been collected for the largest species of zebra, Grevy’s zebra, and is used by the Grevy’s Zebra Trust to monitor the movements of individual animals in East Africa.