I have been reading a little about the size of cells and was curious as to how small they really were.

I have noticed that on my finger, the outlines of the fingerprint are made up of thin lines. In fact, some of them are so thin that I have difficulty imagining anything thinner I can make out with the naked eye.

I have read that the naked eye has a resolution of 0.1 millimeters = 100 micrometers, whereas eukaryotic cells range in diameter of 10 - 100 micrometers.

Putting this information together, would it be reasonable to conclude that the lines on my fingers have a width ranging from 1 - 10 skin cells? Is there any satisfactory method to verify this without fancy equipment? Is it even true?


Are there also more scientific names for these "finger lines" so that I can look it up somewhere? Googling "finger lines" brings up a lot of stuff about palm reading.

  • $\begingroup$ Are you just asking how large is a typical cell? $\endgroup$
    – kmm
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 4:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think the scientific term is friction ridges $\endgroup$
    – nico
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 6:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Kevin More or less. But it doesn't have to be as large as "a tpyical cell". I am looking for something encountered in everyday life that I can use as a ballpark to compare with other things. I have heard stuff about how "so and so" many cells could fit in the tip of a needle, but it seems silly to think that way because a metal needle doesn't have any cells. $\endgroup$
    – math4tots
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ @math4tots I agree that the needle isn't a great size reference because the size of the tip isn't an "everyday life" kind of thing. However, I don't see why something has to be made up of cells to act as a reference for judging the size of cells. scaleofuniverse.com might be interesting to you for relating magnitudes of scale. Make sure to catch the human blood cells (~10 micrometers) between the micrometer and millimeter markers. $\endgroup$
    – yamad
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 14:59

1 Answer 1


I am not sure that this can be accurately estimated because the outer layer of skin is ill-defined in terms of cells and cell boundaries. The outer layer or epidermis is composed of dead cells and dead cell parts that is tough and interconnected by design. Individual cells are not readily discernible.


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