1. ITV Report

Bath-wrinkled fingers are evolutionary feature for grip, say scientists

Wrinkled feet in the wet could have afforded bare-footed ancestors better grip in the rain. Photo: Flickr/rickpilot_2000 under Creative Commons licence

Wrinkly fingers from sitting in the bath for too long could well have a useful purpose, according to research.

Wrinkles that form on skin after being in water improves grip on wet objects, scientists from Newcastle University claim to have shown.

The study compared the results of people taking objects out of water with and without the prune-like skin formation.

Author Dr Tom Smulders, publishing the paper in Biology Letters, 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.

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

In the study people picked up marbles of different sizes with normal hands or with wrinkled fingers after having soaked their hands in warm water for 30 minutes. They were faster if their fingers were wrinkled but it made no difference when moving dry objects.

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

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

Image via rickpilot_2000