An article published in 2013 by BBC Brasil answered a very interesting question: do you know why the skin on your feet and hands gets wrinkled when in contact with water?
According to the publication, research carried out by scientists in the United Kingdom has given the answer and it has to do with human evolution. “The fact that the fingers become wrinkled after some time in the water can be an advantage acquired by the human being during its evolution for thousands of years”.
Why do fingers crinkle in water? Study reveals
The scholars who said this are part of the faculty at Newcastle University, located in the north of England. They did the following experiment: they asked the volunteers to take marbles in the water with one hand and pass them to the other hand, in order to put the marbles elsewhere.
The result was as follows: volunteers with water-wrinkled fingers completed the task faster than volunteers with smooth fingers. Thus, the BBC Brasil report states that: “the study suggests that wrinkles have the specific function of making it easier to handle underwater objects or wet surfaces in general, which may have been an advantage for first humans when looking for food in nature ”.
This discovery puts an end to the belief that the wrinkled fingers signified a swelling of the skin due to prolonged contact with water, although this in itself would be of no use.
However, after this research by the English, wrinkles reveal that vasoconstriction occurs as a reaction of the nervous system. “If the wrinkled fingers were just the result of the swelling of the skin when it comes in contact with water, they could have a function, but not necessarily”, explains scientist Tom Smulders, from the university, who adds: “on the other hand, if the nervous system is actively controlling this reaction in certain circumstances and not others, it is easier to conclude that there is a function behind it that is the result of evolution. And evolution would not have selected that answer if it did not give us some kind of advantage ”.
In practice, this has happened since our ancestors, when they needed these wrinkles to get wet objects and food from lakes and rivers.
Research on other primates
The idea is also to research primates, to find out if they have the same characteristics. “If it is present in many primates, then my opinion is that its original function may have been locomotor, helping to move around in damp vegetation or wet trees. On the other hand, if it is only in humans, then we can consider it to be something much more specific, such as looking for food in and on the banks of rivers ”.