Soak in a bathtub long enough, or go swimming, or wash your dishes by hand, and sooner or later you'll get wrinkly fingers. You might also notice that the soles of your feet get wrinkled as well after soaking. A half-hour or so after drying off, and they go back to normal. Common sense might tell you that the water soaked in and caused your skin to expand, but you'd be wrong. If that were the case, why doesn't the skin on our legs or stomachs wrinkle in water?
Researchers have discovered that the skin on our fingers wrinkles actively, as an autonomous nervous response. The median nerve is one of the main nerves running down our arms. In people who have their median nerve severed, fingers no longer wrinkle in water. So it is a response our bodies have developed, but why? Recent experiments show that fingers wrinkled by soaking in water improve our grip on wet objects. If that's the case, then it makes sense that the skin on our feet wrinkles as well, in order to give us a better grip on wet surfaces that we may walk on. An article at BBC Future lays out the precise procedures our bodies go through to give us wrinkly fingers and how we found out the purpose for such a response. -via Damn Interesting
(Image credit: Brenderous)
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