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Ever wondered why your fingers wrinkle under water?

No it's not swollen with water, silly!

Read this in Hindi.

If you take a bath for a long time or if your hands and toes are in contact with water for a long time, you must have observed how wrinkly your fingers and toes get. Have you ever given a thought why this happens?

Many people believe that it is because the outermost layer of the skin swells due absorption of water. But that's not the case. So what exactly happens? Wrinkling of fingers and toes is the work of the autonomous nervous system (ANS). When the fingers are submerged in the water for a long time, the volume of the pulp of the finger reduces due to vasoconstriction that is controlled by the ANS. This reduction in the pulp volume gives rise to wrinkles on fingers and toes. Appearance of wrinkles is a healthy sign and it means that your ANS functioning properly.

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The wrinkles are also believed to help you adapt to wet conditions. When your fingers are dry you can easily grip things as there is more friction. But when your fingers are wet, there is hardly any friction as water acts as a lubricator, just as it is difficult to hold on to things when your fingers are oiled. Similarly, toes wrinkle in water to help you get a grip on the floor and prevent slipping in wet conditions.

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Reference:

Kareklas K, Nettle D, Smulders TV. Water-induced finger wrinkles improve handling of wet objects. Biology Letters. 2013;9(2):20120999. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2012.0999.

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