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Wrinkled Fingers Help in Better Handling of Wet Objects

Jan 11, 2013 06:03 AM EST

The wrinkles that we get on our fingers as a result of a long soak in water can serve the purpose of holding wet objects better, reveals a new study.

Researchers from the Newcastle University, UK, have found that wrinkled fingers and toes help in better handling of wet objects.

For the study, the research team asked participants with dry and wrinkled hands to pick up wet and dry marbles of different sizes. They found that all the participants were able pick up the dry marbles faster than the wet ones.

Interestingly, researchers noticed that people with wrinkled hands were 12 percent faster in moving the wet objects than those with non-wrinkled fingers. This shows that wrinkled fingers improve our grip on wet objects, they said.

"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," lead author of the study Dr. Tom Smulders, from Newcastle University, said in a statement.

Wrinkles are caused by blood vessels constricting below the skin that is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. Smulders suggests that wrinkles on fingers and toes may have been developed to gather food from wet vegetation or streams, and to get better footing in the rain.

"Going back in time this wrinkling of our fingers in wet conditions could have helped with gathering food from wet vegetation or streams," Smulders said.

"And as we see the effect in our toes too, this may have been an advantage as it may have meant our ancestors were able to get a better footing in the rain."

The team is further planning to study as to why humans don't have wrinkly fingers permanently.

The findings of the study, "Water-induced finger wrinkles improve handling of wet objects", appear in the Royal Society's journal Biology Letters.

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