Wrinkled fingers have a function

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The secret of the wrinkled fingers has been revealed

If our hands come into contact with water for longer, the skin becomes wrinkled. British researchers have now got to the bottom of this phenomenon. According to the study, wrinkled fingers or wrinkled fingers certainly serve a purpose because wrinkled skin makes it easier and faster to grip wet objects. For our primeval ancestors, this could have been an advantage when collecting food in water and moist vegetation, the researchers suspect from an evolutionary biological point of view.

Wrinkled fingers work in a similar way to tire treads Whether in the swimming pool, washing dishes or taking a shower - if the skin is in contact with water for longer, it starts to shrink on the hands and feet. Scientists were already working on this phenomenon in 2011. At that time, Mark Changizi and his team hypothesized that the wrinkled skin fulfills a function similar to that of a tire tread in cars, which ensures better grip on wet roads. The "profile" of wet fingers also ensures that the water can drain off better, according to Changizi.

Newcastle University's Kyriacos Kareklas and his team recently provided scientific evidence of the benefit of wrinkled fingers, thereby supporting Changizi's hypothesis, as researchers in the British Society's Biology Letters report. Shrinking fingers make it easier to grip and carry wet objects. With dry objects, the wrinkled skin would have neither an advantage nor a disadvantage.

The researchers suspect that the water is more easily drained off by the folds, which improves the grip when gripping. It is a misconception that fingers get wrinkled when exposed to water because they swell. "The formation of wrinkles is known to be an active process that is due to the control of the nervous system," the researchers write. This suggests that the formation of wrinkled skin is not a simple reaction to the water, but rather has a function.

Wrinkled fingers have a function For their examination, 20 test persons were to transport several glass marbles and small lead weights between the index finger and thumb from one vessel to another. The objects were dry in one experiment and wet in another. Both experiments were carried out by the test subjects once with dry hands and once with wrinkled hands, which had previously been immersed in warm water for 30 minutes.

It was found that the dry objects were always transported from one container to the other faster than the wet objects. It made no difference whether the test subjects had wrinkled or non-wrinkled fingers. However, the damp objects were gripped and transported much faster with wrinkled fingers by the study participants. "In this study, we show - in line with the 'profile hypothesis' - that the skin folds improve handling of wet objects," said the researchers. "These results support the hypothesis that the skin folds on the fingers caused by contact with water represent an adaptation to the handling of wet objects and also provide the first empirical evidence for the explanation of a function of this known phenomenon."

Wrinkled fingers for ancestors Survival advantage So far it has not been possible to determine exactly how the skin folds enable a better grip. The scientists report that this needs to be investigated further. In addition to the hypothesis that the wrinkles better drain the water and thus improve the adhesion, another possible explanation could "be found in the changing skin properties of wrinkled fingers that increase flexibility and grip". According to the researchers, the wrinkled skin on the feet offers "better grip".

So far, the researchers have not been able to clarify why the skin on the hands and feet is not permanently wrinkled. After all, the skin folds would have no disadvantage when handling dry objects, but a great advantage when gripping and transporting wet objects. According to experts, the wrinkled skin could potentially result in less sensitivity and greater susceptibility to injury.

From an evolutionary biological point of view, Tom Smulders, one of the study's authors, suspects that "the shrinking of the fingers when wet once helped to collect food from damp vegetation or from water". The shriveled skin on the feet could have given more grip when it rained . (sb)

Image: Sabine Ullmann / pixelio.de

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Video: Why Do We Wrinkle When Wet?

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