Science gets a grip on finger wrinkles

Jan 09, 2013
File picture. Getting "pruney fingers" from soaking in the bath is an evolutionary advantage, for it helps us get a better grip on objects under water, scientists suggest. Digit puckering was long thought to be caused by a swelling of the outer layers of skin on the fingertips and toes, but recent research showed it was actually a nervous system response to immersion in water.

Getting "pruney fingers" from soaking in the bath is an evolutionary advantage, for it helps us get a better grip on objects under water, scientists suggest.

Digit puckering was long thought to be caused by a swelling of the outer layers of skin on the fingertips and toes, but recent research showed it was actually a nervous system response to immersion in water.

The purpose, though, was a mystery.

A team from the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University tested the usefulness of wrinkling by human volunteers handling wet objects with creased and uncreased fingers.

Those who had their hands immersed in warm water for 30 minutes were much faster than those with dry digits in a test that entailed picking up glass marbles and lead fishing weights between thumb and and transferring them from one container to another.

"We have shown that wrinkled fingers give a better grip in ," research leader Tom Smulders said of the findings.

"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."

Smulders told AFP the wrinkling was probably an evolutionary adaption, possibly to improve mobility on wet surfaces.

"This would explain why it happens to both hands and feet, and might have been an adaptation in some primate ancestor well before humans evolved, who might have walked on all fours," he said.

It may also have been useful in gathering food from wet vegetation or streams.

The study found that wrinkling had no adverse impact on the handling of dry objects, which raises the question why we do not have permanently creased fingers and toes.

Finger wrinkling may carry a cost, though, by diminishing fingertip sensitivity, Smulders added.

Explore further: Noted researchers warn that biomedical research system in US is unsustainable

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User comments : 10

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grondilu
1 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2013
Seems a bit far fetched, though. Also, do other great apes show this finger wrinkling?
Going
1 / 5 (1) Jan 09, 2013
This supports the aquatic ape hypothesis of human evolution. This theory suggests that the ancestors of modern humans spent a period of time adapting to life in a wet environment. There are a number of other traits that set humans apart from other primates but have parallels in aquatic mammals.
kevinrtrs
1.4 / 5 (11) Jan 09, 2013
Getting "pruney fingers" from soaking in the bath is an evolutionary advantage, for it helps us get a better grip on objects under water,

This is a pure thumb suck - all that has been shown is that the hand has better grip under water because of the pruney fingers.
No one has any history whatsoever that evolution did occur in the first instance, and even if it did, no one has any observational record that the "advantage" did in fact arise from evolution.

There is no scientifically recorded evidence that evolution is in fact responsible for the development of the "pruney fingers".
One cannot by any stretch of the imagination make such a big leap from observing pruney fingers in the present to suddenly supplying the whole history behind it's development. Get real!
Mayday
3.7 / 5 (6) Jan 09, 2013
Grongi, after limited attempts to hold a gorilla underwater for 30 minutes, the team decided to focus their research solely on human subjects.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (5) Jan 09, 2013
Grongi, after limited attempts to hold a gorilla underwater for 30 minutes, the team decided to focus their research solely on human subjects.

After limited attempts to hold a gorilla underwater for 30 minutes, the rest of the team decided to focus their research solely on human subjects.

Fixed it for ya.

There is no scientifically recorded evidence that evolution is in fact responsible for the development of the "pruney fingers".

It's a hypothesis. Look up the word. Also: every scintifically recorded evidence' starts out somewhere (you know: befor it's recorded)
no one has any observational record that the "advantage"

We do now. That's why they did the experiment in the first place.

Get real

Get a brain.
vega12
5 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2013
"We have shown that wrinkled fingers give a better grip in wet conditions"
We did read about the same story http://scienceill...et-wet/, or not?


Last paragraph of that article: "The ultimate test will be to see if people with wrinkled fingers are better at gripping in wet conditions. Although the experiments are only in their pilot phase, Changizi says that the results are promising to support his theory." So clearly this is an extension of that research.
MandoZink
3 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2013
The effect of soaked fingers had three possibilities:
1) Some advantage
2) No difference
3) A bit of disadvantage

I see little reason or explanation that any benefit this provided would have spurred an evolutionary direction. Sometimes we get a small break here and there. I don't think it guided our destiny.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jan 09, 2013
I see little reason or explanation that any benefit this provided would have spurred an evolutionary direction.

If it's the difference between catching fish and not catching fish I can see that that would be a pretty big advantage.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 09, 2013
In other words, apes falling out of wet trees like fruit was a dumb idea.

Speaking of dumb ideas:

Creationists shouldn't comment on science, it is hilarious and makes deconverts from religion, see Dawkins's Convert's Corner.

Evolution is responsible for all species, therefore it is one way or other responsible for this biology.

@Going: No it doesn't support AAH, see my note above. And no human traits are especially unique, certainly not those mentioned around water. East African chimps like water, a diving reflex is generic, hair loss is ubiquitous among animals, et cetera. Bad facts.

The aquatic ape hypothesis is dead within the paleontological society. "One of the questions people often ask is why the anthropologists who deal with human evolution don't deal with the AAT/H ... there are a couple of very good reasons why they don't spend more time on it. One can be seen by looking at the quality of the evidence used to support the AAT/H." [ http://www.aquaticape.org/ ]
Mike_Massen
3 / 5 (2) Jan 13, 2013
FOR Kevinrtrs !

I've never yet come across *any* religious person who can explain why the old testament is written as if a god didnt know Adam/Eve were going to eat the fruit. Logic is so very obvious:-

a. IF he/she/it didn't know the future then it can't be a god at all or is a very minor/impotent one.
OR
b. IF he/she/it did know the future yet caused all of creation to suffer anyway, it makes him/her/it a really *nasty* prick !

As for so called New Testament, 3 top things Jesus said:-

1. Heaven is within (untestable, a purely mood related hypnosis)
2. 'Do unto others as you would be done by' (Bonobo monkey's do that already, pretty obvious older idea)
3. Have no thought for the morrow (ie Don't care about tomorrow, dont plan..)

How is any person "saved" when there's *no* education to alleviate suffering, none, zero, zilch, how is that 'love' ?

@kevinrtrs, a deity is claimed to write a book through a human & then disburse it arbitrarily, is that any sort of good communication ?

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