Ears as distinctive as fingerprints study finds

The study demonstrated that the human ear would be a powerful tool to distinguish between genetically identical twins.

Madhu Balaji

A study by an international research team including Indian-origin researcher Dr Sudheer Babu Balla from La Trobe University’s School of Rural Health in Bendigo, has found that the distinctive shape and size of the ears in a human body are an useful identifier of an individual as a fingerprint or DNA.

According to the for the study, published in a journal, Morphologie, the external human ears of humans can be used to distinguish not only people from a random population but also genetically identical twins. It can be used not only too recognise the dead but also for the recognition of the living – such as crime suspects and victims.

“The external human ear is particularly distinct for an individual – having both morphological features from the genetic origin, but also distinctive features acquired through life, such as in sports’ players, say rugby players,” Dr Balla, who analysed data from India for the study said.

The researchers used Cameriere's ear identification method, which was developed in 2011 and relies on measurements and ratios of different parts of the outside ear, including helix, antihelix, concha, and lobe to test their results. They tested ethnic groups from six countries Brazil, India, Japan, Russia, South Africa and Turkey, using a sample of 2,225 photographs of the external human ear from 1,411 individuals (633 females and 778 males).

The findings revealed that there is a low probability (< 0.0007) of finding two individuals with the exact same code as assessed by Cameriere's ear identification method. “It may also mean that analysis of human ears could be used as an alternative to facial recognition systems,” Dr Balla said.

A dentist, academician and researcher, Balla has a master's in Forensic Odontology from the University of Dundee, UK. He had worked as a forensic expert in India and conducted forensic age assessments in juvenile delinquents and migrant children. His area of research interest includes oral health promotion in children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, forensic age estimation, and identification of human remains using dentition.

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