Although a common phenomenon, the underlying functions and mechanism of fingertip wrinkling following immersion in water are relatively unexplored. Originally it was assumed[by whom?] that the wrinkles were simply the result of the skin swelling in water, but it is now understood that the furrows are caused by the blood vessels constricting due to signalling by the sympathetic nervous system in response to water exposure. One hypothesis for why this occurs, the “rain tread” hypothesis, posits that the wrinkles may help the fingers grip things when wet, possibly being an adaption from a time when humans dealt with rain and dew in forested primate habitats. A 2013 study supporting this hypothesis found that the wrinkled fingertips provided better handling of wet objects but gave no advantage for handling dry objects. However, a 2014 study attempting to reproduce these results was unable to demonstrate any improvement of handling wet objects with wrinkled fingertips.
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