Koalas And Humans Have The Same Fingerprints

Brilliance | Dec. 14, 2017

How should we say this... there's a chance that you could be framed for a crime committed by a koala. And no, this isn't fake news. In 1996, a team of anatomists at the University of Adelaide in Australia discovered that koalas have fingerprints, and they're so similar to those of humans that the two could easily be confused.

Within Their Grasp

If you compared human and koala fingerprints side-by-side, not even a microscope could tell them apart. Koalas aren't the only animals to share these identifying marks with humans — many primates have fingerprints, too — but unlike primates, koalas don't share an ancestor with humans. So how did their prints become so similar to ours?

According to Live Science, primates and modern koalas' ancestors are separated by 70 million years of evolution. That's a pretty long time to have such a striking similarity. But this commonality actually tells us a lot about the long-debated purpose of fingerprints in general: it's all about the grasp.

It's The Climb

It's believed that our ancestors climbed trees, much like modern koalas climb trees to grasp leaves for food. The 1996 paper explains that fingerprints are an adaptation for grasping, producing "mechanical influences on the skin. These forces must be precisely felt for fine control of movement and static pressures and hence require orderly organization of the skin surface." Humans, primates, and koalas all rely on grasping for survival. So, if you happen to be near a koala in the wrong place at the wrong time, you've been warned.

Watch And Learn: Our Favorite Videos About Fingerprints And DNA

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