The research that’s on everyone’s lips: Lip prints

They are on everyone’s lips always, and sometimes on a shred of evidence in a murder trial, and occasionally in the title of a scientific report. Lip prints have become the subject of formal study. That formal study has a formal name: cheiloscopy. Basic questions still nag at cheiloscopists.

A Portuguese population lip print patterns paper, Morphologic Patterns of Lip Prints in a Portuguese Population: A Preliminary Analysis, written by Virginia Costa and Ines Caldas of the University of Porto, in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, shows how scientists have worked hard to classify the universe of lip patterns into a set of standard categories. They slightly lament the existence of competing standards, the field being too new for its experts to settle on a single taxonomy.

They also worry at the how-do-the-lips-change-after-death conundrum….

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.