Why do we get prune fingers? (Thinkstock)
Why do we get prune fingers?
Lexile

You asked us, why do we get prune fingers?
 
People used to think that the wrinkles happened when the outer layer of our skin on our fingers and toes swelled up with water. But now we know that pruning is caused by blood vessels below the skin constricting.
 
It's an involuntary reaction to wet conditions by our autonomic nervous system. This is the same system that controls things like our breathing, heart rate and perspiration. Those are things we don't have to consciously think about to do.
 
But why did our bodies, actually just our fingers and toes, evolve to react this way when wet?
 
You see, a few people started taking a closer look. They thought, "Hey, you know those wrinkles on our fingers and toes? They kind of look like tire treads, don't they?" So they began to test a hypothesis.
 
Maybe we wrinkle so, like tire treads, our fingers and toes can get better traction in wet conditions. Sure enough, our pruny digits do a better job of handling wet objects than dry fingers.
 
It's possible this nifty trick helped our ancestors get a better grip and sturdier footing in wet conditions. Thanks, science! Now I can kick butt at my next water balloon fight.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why don't we consciously think about breathing and heart rate?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (194)
  • oliviam-6-bar
    5/20/2016 - 08:50 a.m.

    We don't think about our heart rate and breathing because "our autonomic nervous system" does it for us. If it weren't for that system, we would never be able to rest. That means no sleep! Since toe and finger swells use "the same system that controls things like our breathing, heart rate and perspiration", it must be very important for our bodies to act that way.

  • ashtynb-ter
    5/20/2016 - 09:12 a.m.

    We automatically know how to breathe so we never have to think about it and as kids we don't ever think about our health unless we are sick

  • paytonn-ver
    5/20/2016 - 09:13 a.m.

    That is pretty wierd how just are finger and toe tips get wrinkley. But then it would be wierd if are whole body got wrinkly

  • kaylinu-ter
    5/20/2016 - 09:14 a.m.

    We don't think about these things because it just comes naturally to us. We don't have to work for it. It is a natural ability that we are born with so nobody really ever thinks about it unless theirs is having problems.

  • kelseyk-ter
    5/20/2016 - 09:16 a.m.

    I don't like it when it does that to my feet. I think that is so cool that they are trying to found out what makes it do that.

  • briannar-ter
    5/20/2016 - 09:19 a.m.

    I used to think that when you are in the water for to long that your body is soaking up water there for making your fingers and toes prune. When I was little my big sister always told me that I was getting old and that I was getting wrinkles because of it.

  • phoebeh-ter
    5/20/2016 - 09:25 a.m.

    It really odd the way our bodies react to certain thing and our predictions of what it is and what causes it is pretty funny and interesting. But thank God for scientist am I right.

  • jacobw1-ter
    5/20/2016 - 09:34 a.m.

    I've always wondered why my fingers and toes got all wrinkly.

  • chloet-ter
    5/20/2016 - 10:00 a.m.

    That was really interesting. Its amazing what scientists can find out about the human.

  • thanht-ter
    5/20/2016 - 10:01 a.m.

    That is really weird how our blood vessels constrict when wet. It is a nifty trick though because the prune fingers and toes give us a better grip. It cool how we can still learn something new in something so old.

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