In this study of the genetics of dermatoglyphic asymmetry, we collected bilateral finger and palm prints of 824 individuals from 200 families including 2 generations from an endogamous caste (Vaidya) in Barasat, North 24-Parganas District, West Bengal. Two main types of asymmetry (fluctuating asymmetry and directional asymmetry) were calculated between the two hands. The study includes familial correlation between first-degree relatives, principal-components analysis, and maximum-likelihood-based heritabilities (by pedigree analysis). We found, first, that familial correlations in all possible pairs of relationships (except spouse correlation) were weak but positive; some were even statistically significant. No indication of assortative mating was observed, but the influence of maternal environment could not be discarded. The results also showed that X-chromosome linkage does not seem to be involved. A second major finding is that five principal factors could be extracted from all these asymmetric traits, explaining 74.207% of the overall cumulative variance. Asymmetry of finger and palmar areas were clearly separated by factor. In addition, the heritabilities of the extracted five factors were in the range of 8–24%. These estimates are in agreement with some previously published data. The heritabilities of the factors describing palmar asymmetry are slightly lower than those describing finger asymmetry. The present results support the hypothesis that both types of asymmetry have a genetic basis and are influenced by the intrauterine environment.
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Vol. 78 • No. 2