Did You Know

Why Our Fingers and Toes Wrinkle When Wet

If your fingers or toes have spent more than 10 minutes in water, then you've noticed how "pruney" they can get when you've left the bathtub, lake, or swimming pool.

Many people who are unaware of why this happens attempt to attribute it to how we evolved. Could this be a vestigial feature that serves no function, or are we one step behind the likes of Spider Man? Perhaps we'd turn into a mermaid if we were exposed to water long enough?

In the early twentieth century, many scientists believed that fingers and toes became "pruney" because of how water moved into the dry outer layers of our skin, which would then puff up and shrivel.

But then scientists discovered something interesting when they investigated why some people's fingers and toes don't wrinkle.

Further research into understanding why that happens revealed something quite interesting...

The once popular belief that these ridges formed because blood vessels in the outer layers of our skin contract was ruled out after studies in the '30s revealed that people who suffered from nerve damage to their fingers are unable to shrivel up.  

In fact, these blood vessels never swelled up, they constricted!

This discovery was helpful to understanding that our fingers and toes wrinkle automatically. It's controlled by the automatic nervous system, which controls heart rate, perspiration, breathing, and all the other bodily functions that you have the luxury not to think of every second.

Although we are not designed to turn into some fantastical creature, an evolutionary neurobiologist suggested that shriveling up must have an evolutionary function.  

A study from a couple years ago demonstrated that people are able to pick up wet objects at a faster rate when their fingers are "pruney".

Some scientists also believe that this mechanism helped our ancestors to gather food in wet areas and have better footing in the rain.  

Share this with your friends and let them know why our fingers and toes wrinkle in a bathtub!

Moojan has been a writer at Shared for a year. When she's not on the lookout for viral content, she's looking at cute animal photos. Reach her at moojan@shared.com.