Why Wet Fingers Wrinkle

by Christopher Paul on June 29, 2011

Ever wonder why fingers get wrinkly after being in the water for a while?

No one really knows for sure but there are some good theories as to why they do. At first people thought they just absorbed the moisture. But Mark Changizi, an evolutionary neurobiologist, has a very interesting alternative:

“Changizi thinks that the wrinkles act like rain treads on [tires]. They create channels that allow water to drain away as we press our fingertips on to wet surfaces. This allows the fingers to make greater contact with a wet surface, giving them a better grip.”

He hasn’t worked out exactly how long fingers need to be exposed to water before they wrinkle, however. Still, he feels wrinkling is not a physical response to having too much water in the fingers or toes — fingers with nerve damage don’t wrinkle meaning the response is something the brain controls.

Pruney fingers grip better – Nature via NPR

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