At some point in our lives, we’ve all gleefully lazed away in the bathtub, rubber duckies and elusive soap bars galore. We’ve frolicked and splashed, dove and gargled – and too often, those iridescent bubbles we conjured were too enticing to leave. But when we overstayed the visit, perhaps to our novice horror, we found that our fingers and toes turned all “pruney” and “wrinkly” – even “raisiny” (as I once dubbed them). But, as we all asked, why?

Well, our mothers thought – scientists included – that this was all simply because we had absorbed the water through our skin. It had somehow caused the skin to “wrinkle up.” We nodded our heads, curiously rubbed our fingers together, and never bothered to question it again.

In a recent study however, published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Evolution, evolutionary biologists beg to differ with this age-old explanation. The scientists have discovered that all wrinkled fingers and toes have the same “signature properties of drainage networks, enabling efficient removal of water from the gripped surface” (Changizi). In other words, the wrinkles serve as mini tire-treads. Every time they are pressed against a wet surface, the grooves allow water to be squelched out while simultaneously increasing skin-to-surface-area contact.

Think of it as an evolutionary step towards becoming Spiderman. After all, in principle, the wrinkles are a lot like a gecko’s toe-hairs*.

*YouTube video is best watched while taking a bath.

Ian Choi, Features Writer

Sources:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/39/Wrinkly_fingers.jpg

http://content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp?Aktion=JournalHome&ProduktNr=223831

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21701145

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoYeIsSkafI

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/12/really-the-claim-fingers-wrinkle-because-of-water-absorption/?ref=science

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