London: Shrivelling of the skin on the fingers makes it easier to grip things underwater and pick up wet objects, according to a new study.
Scientists from Newcastle University believe that fingers becoming wrinkled when they are submerged in water may have been an evolutionary development to aid people gripping things underwater, the `Daily Mail` reported.
"Going back in time, this wrinkling of our fingers in wet conditions could have helped with gathering food from wet vegetation or streams," researcher Tom Smulders said.
Researchers asked people to pick up marbles and fishing weights and transfer them from one container to another.
The objects, which were sometimes submerged in water, were picked up with normal hands and with hands that had been held in warm water for half an hour to make them wrinkly.
Wrinkled fingers were quicker at picking up wet objects but offered no advantage for moving dry ones, the study found.
Smulders added that toes wrinkling in the bath could have evolved from a need to walk or run on slippery ground. He plans to carry out further research to see if other animals share the trait.
“We use our hands for picking up objects but many other animals use their forepaws for walking and of course we get wrinkles on our toes as well," he said.
"It is possible that it actually evolved to give better traction under wet conditions for running or walking," he added.
The study was published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.