Evolution May Account for Why Fingers Wrinkle in Water

Everyone has experienced the phenomenon of finger tips getting wrinkled after a prolonged shower, bath, or any exposure to water. We’ve always been told since our youth that it’s the result of water getting absorbed into the skin. However, the wrinkling experienced in our hands and feet is limited to those extremities.

Our legs and arms and other parts of the body do not comparatively wrinkle. Now, Mark Changizi, a neurobiologist at Boise University, is suggesting that the wrinkling is the adaptive effect of evolution.

The Changizi explains that our hands and feet to do wrinkle merely as a result of getting wet, but rather to increase traction to wet surfaces. He theorizes that the wrinkling acts like treading on tires in that in allows water on contact surfaces to be flushed away and for the skin to retain a grip on surfaces that would otherwise be harder to maintain contact on when wet.

“We have shown that wrinkled fingers give a better grip in wet conditions — it could be working like treads on your car tyres, which allow more of the tyre to be in contact with the road and gives you a better grip,” says Tom Smulders, an evolutionary biologist at Newcastle University, UK, and a co-author of the paper.

There may be some merit to the argument because fingers that have suffered nerve damage do not wrinkle despite prolonged water contact.

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