Tree Rings and Fingerprints

tree finger prints

The similarity between a fingerprint and the rings of a tree is really interesting. Are there any other connections between the human prints and the rings and whorls of a tree?

A fingerprint is an impression left by the friction ridges of a human finger. They are probably best known for their use in crime scene forensic science. Dactyloscopy is the science of fingerprint identification. It relies on the analysis and classification of patterns observed in individual prints.

Human fingerprints are detailed, nearly (but not absolutely) unique, difficult to alter. They are quite durable but do break down somewhat in old age. All of that makes them suitable as long-term markers of human identity.

They are used by the police but in the 21st century, they have been used for identification on iPhones and other devices. These biometrics are not foolproof and though your fingerprints may be unique and durable, they can be reproduced and faked.

Chemicals and residues on your hands can be transferred in a print and used to know things about you such as that you are a smoker (of cigarettes or marijuana) or have handled certain drugs or chemicals.

But they are not like the lines on your palms. Palmistry (AKA palm reading, chiromancy, or chirology) is the practice of fortune-telling through the study of the lines on your palm. The practice is found all over the world, with numerous cultural variations. Those who practice chiromancy are generally called palmists, hand readers, hand analysts, or chirologists. Unlike the study of fingerprints, palm readers lack consistency in their interpretations so palmistry is generally viewed as pseudoscience by academics.

tree rings

Dendrochronology is the study of data derived from tree ring growth. That data is used in archaeology for dating materials and artifacts made from wood. Chemists use tree rings for radiocarbon dating. In climate science, particularly in paleoclimatology, it allows scientists to learn about the environmental conditions of the past, locally or globally. Dendrologists are tree scientists and examine all aspects of trees but tree rings can tell about the present local climate

Dendrochronology is tree-ring dating which is the scientific method of dating tree rings (also called growth rings) to the exact year they were formed.

Scientists doing dendroclimatology study of climate and atmospheric conditions during different periods in history. That can be done on very old tree trunks but also for much younger trees and it gives us data about local events such as wet periods, droughts, fires, sunlight competition, and diseases.

Studying changes in the environment and climate is very important to all of us, but analyzing the wood found in archaeology or works of art and architecture, such as old panel paintings is also a way to date things.

New growth in trees occurs in the outer layer of cells near the bark. Each ring marks a complete cycle of seasons, or one year, in the tree’s life.

I read that we have securely dated tree-ring data for the northern hemisphere going back 13,910 years. We can even measure variations in oxygen isotopes in each ring.

And I haven’t even gotten into the rings in our teeth. Yes, mammalian tooth enamel grows in waves. Under high magnification, they look like tree rings. These waves are known as the “Striae of Retzius.” They grow in a regular pulse, between one day and eight days, depending on the size of the mammal and as with tree rings, a line marking a new layer of growth can be seen after each pulse.

I have answered my own question about how the rings in trees, fingers or teeth might be related, but doesn’t it seem like somehow they must be connected?

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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