Fingerprints and palmprints are unique to an individual, and these biometric characters are used in the identification of individuals. In the recent past, ridge density (ridge count in a defined area) has been explored for its applicability in inference of sex from the fingerprints and palmprints recovered at the crime scene. The present research aims to study the variability of palmprint ridge density in a North Indian population, and its significance in inference of sex in forensic examinations. The sample consisted of 157 healthy young adults (110 females and 47 males) from Shimla city in North India. Bilateral palmprints were taken from all the participants following standard methods. The palmprints were manually analyzed in four defined areas of each palmprint that included the central prominent part of the thenar eminence (P1), the mount distal to the axial triradius on the hypothenar region (P2), the mount proximal to the triradius of the second digit (P3) and the mount proximal to the triradius of the fifth digit (P4). The ridge density was calculated diagonally using a square measuring 5. mm. ×. 5. mm. The sex differences in palmprint ridge densities were statistically analyzed for each of the designated areas using statistical considerations. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was done to test the overall ability of the palmprint ridge densities obtained from each area in inference of sex. The mean palmprint ridge density was found to be significantly greater in females than in males in all the four defined areas of the palmprint. Ridge densities in P3 and P4 areas of the palmprint showed statistically significant bilateral differences in both males and females. The study observed variations in the ridge density between the four designated areas of the palmprint. Based on the area under the ROC curve (AUC), maximum sexing potential for the palmprint ridge density was observed in the P4 area, followed by P3 area on both right and left sides. ROC analysis of the total palmprint ridge density indicated that the sexing accuracy from the right and left palmprint ridge densities was 70.2% and 71.8% respectively. The study shows variability of palmprint ridge density among sexes and in different regions of the palm on both sides. In view of the considerable overlapping in male and female values and lower levels of accuracy obtained in ROC analysis, the present research concludes that the palmprint ridge density cannot be used as an effective tool in inference of sex. However, in absence of other more reliable means/evidence, it still can be considered as a supportive trait in sex inference.
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