Fingerprints at the scene of a crime often reveal the identity of the guilty party. Law enforcement officers in Australia or near a zoo should be wary of jumping to any conclusions, though, until they have determined whether the fingerprints actually belong to a human.
As it turns out, the fingerprints of koalas are so similar to those of humans that they can be virtually indistinguishable. Each koala appears to have fingerprints that are unique to that particular animal. The prints, consisting of loops and whirls, follow the same patters and designs of humans.
Scientists are uncertain why this phenomenon exists. Most tree-dwelling mammals do not have such fingerprints, and koalas have never been regarded as being particularly close to humans on the family tree of mammals. The trait appears to have developed comparatively recently. The closest relatives to koalas — kangaroos and wombats — do not share the trait.
According to Maciej Henneberg, forensic scientist and biological anthropologist at the University of Adelaide, Australia, these cuddly creatures’ prints could also easily be mistaken for our own. “It appears that no one has bothered to study them in detail… although it is extremely unlikely that koala prints would be found at the scene of a crime, police should at least be aware of the possibility,” said Henneberg.
Read more fun facts about animals.
Read more fun facts about crime and criminals.