The other day I had a conversation with my granddaughter (seems I have a lot of great talks with them!) about grapes. I asked her if she knew what would happen to them if a bunch of grapes were left out in the sun for a long time – and she knew! Raisins! Smart kids these days! If you want to watch grapes go to raisins in like 33 seconds, click here.
Anyway, she then said that her fingers get like raisins, but only after she swims for a long time. Got me thinking: “Why do our fingers get pruney?”
A scientific debate has recently emerged about why our fingers wrinkle. On one side: osmosis loyalists. On the other: researchers who believe pruning is a neural mechanism to improve traction—to make your hands more grippy when they’re wet.
For many years, most people assumed that our fingers and toes took on the texture of raisins from absorbing water—the longer you soaked in the tub, the more wrinkly your extremities. These rogue theorists instead suggest the grooves in wet fingers push out water when pressed to surfaces, allowing for better contact (and thus, better grip). To their point, previous research shows people with severed nerves in their fingers don’t prune up in water—showing that wet, wrinkly hands and feet are a product of the nervous system.
Sounds reasonable! The problem is that these researchers haven’t done much, uh, research to prove their theory is entirely legit. They’re working on it. But in the meantime: don’t run through puddles by the pool. No matter how smart our nervous system is, you’ll probably still slip and fall on your ass. [Discovery News]
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