Prune Fingers May Help You Hold Onto Things

Scientists know a lot about the body, but they don't know everything. Take, for example, the pruning that occurs when you spend too much time in the water. Scientists don't know why these wrinkles occur only on the hands and feet.

A recent study in Brain, behaviour and Evolution suggests these wrinkles are there for a reason - they may help you grip things. The wrinkles all have the same basic pattern of grooves that move apart from each other as they extend away from the fingertips. These grooves let water drain from your hands and could provide additional surface area that would improve your grip in wet conditions. [ Brain, behaviour and Evolution via NYT; Image from Afronova/Shutterstock]


    I thought it was because hands and feet have excessive build ups of dead skin in comparison to other body areas. The dead skin absorbs water and expands more than the living skin, causing it to wrinkle. This is similar to a bimetallic strip such as those found in your household thermostats.

      Good enough for me, James!

      Sorry James, but that's just the physical reason - we're talking evolution here...

      You could also just take the creationist's approach and say that our fingers wrinkle because God made them so.

      Actually it's a physiological reaction and not due to water absorption:

      "In 1935, however, Lewis and Pickering were studying patients with palsy of the median nerve when they discovered that skin wrinkling did not occur in the areas of the patients' skin normally innervated by the damaged nerve. This suggested that the nervous system plays an essential role in wrinkling, so the phenomenon could not be entirely explained simply by water absorption."

      In other words, nerve damage can stop fingers from pruning up.

    I can only think of 1 thing to take grip of when having a long bath..... God bless you evolution.

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