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This is why our fingers and toes go wrinkly in the bath

Mirror logo Mirror 8/02/2017 Zahra Mulroy

Prune-like fingers and toes are the price we pay for a nice long soak in the bath , or a good swim. 

Credits: Moment RF © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Moment RF The most popular assumption is that these wrinkles are the result of water passing into the outer layer of the skin and making it swell up - and a tell-tale sign we've been in the tub for a little too long.

But the wrinkling in our digits may be because of an important evolutionary reason - and are indicative of well-honed survival skills.

The ridges develop, scientists believe, so we can have a better grip when underwater.

© Shutterstock Given how there have been few signs the Apocalypse is nigh , this may come in handy when we have to adapt to living in an oceanic trench.

Rather than it being swelling caused by water, these wrinkles are the work of the autonomic nervous system (which controls breathing, heart rate and perspiration) causing the blood vessels to constrict beneath the skin.

© Shutterstock Lead author of the study, Dr Tom Smulders told The Sun :

"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.

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

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc

"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."

It was undeniably useful trait to have for our ancestors. But how did the research arrive at this conclusion?

The study asked people to pick up range of marbles with either 'normal' hands or hands which had been soaking in water for half an hour.

© Shutterstock What they found were the participants with wrinkled fingers were 12 per cent faster with the wet marbles.

However, when it came to moving dry objects, wrinkled fingers made no difference.

Credits: PA © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: PA

What this suggests is the function of wrinkles on our fingers and toes is to help us get a good grip on underwater or wet objects.

Dr Smulders adds, "This raises the question of why we don’t have permanently wrinkled fingers and we'd like to examine this further.

"Our initial thoughts are that this could diminish the sensitivity in our fingertips or could increase the risk of damage through catching on objects."

Considering the rising ocean levels and general state of the planet, we may soon be utilising this trait as part of our everyday lives in the not-too-distant future.


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