The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Top News

January 14, 2013

Wrinkles help fingers get a grip

A long soak in the tub can wreak havoc on your fingertips, transforming your smooth digits into wrinkly eyesores. But this rumply skin may actually serve a purpose, according to a new study. It helps us get a stronger grip on slippery objects, especially those underwater.

Scientists long thought that wrinkly fingers were caused by osmosis-swelling of the outer layer of the skin as water seeped into cells. But experiments conducted in the past few years-as well as observations that water-induced wrinkles don't form on the tips of previously severed but subsequently reattached fingers-suggest that the wrinkles are instead produced by nerves that automatically trigger constriction of the blood vessels beneath the skin, reducing the volume of the tissues there.

Having something under the direct control of a nerve, even an involuntary one, suggests it serves an evolutionary purpose. But that begged the question of what function finger wrinkles have. In 2011, a team of neuroscientists proposed that the folds improved our grip on wet or submerged objects, just as the treads on tires help improve traction. "That seemed like a clever hypothesis that would be easy to test," says Tom Smulders, an evolutionary biologist at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom.

So, he and his colleagues designed an experiment where volunteers picked up 45 submerged objects such as glass marbles and lead fishing weights from a bin one at a time with their right hand, passed them through a postage stamp-sized hole in a barrier to their left hand, and then dropped them through another hole into a box. When test subjects had wrinkly fingertips-induced by soaking their hands in 40°C water for 30 minutes-they completed the task about 12% faster than they had when their fingers hadn't been soaked, the team reports online Monday in Biology Letters. When performing the same task with dry objects, wrinkly fingertips didn't provide a performance advantage.

Text Only
Top News
  • Celebrity quack moms are a terrible influence on everyday parents

    On April 15, the actress Alicia Silverstone released a book called "The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning." It's chock-full of attachment parenting lessons and dangerous misinformation.

    April 24, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg What will happen in NFL draft? No one really knows

    Despite the hours spent interviewing coaches, watching film and developing well-reasoned mock draft lists, the truth about the 2014 NFL draft remains a mystery, well-guarded by teams that have nothing to gain by publicly sharing their innermost thoughts.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • American sunscreens need an upgrade

    The last time a new sunscreen ingredient came on the U.S. market, the Y2K bug was threatening to destroy our way of life. Intel had just introduced the Pentium III processor, featuring an amazing 500 MHz of computing power.

    April 24, 2014

  • 20140424-AMX-COFFEE24.jpg Coffee growers' prayers for rain met with threat of deluge

    Brazil's drought made arabica coffee this year's best-performing commodity. Now, farmers are facing a downpour that is once more threatening crops.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Iowa man accused of torturing, killing bald eagle

    An Iowa man has been charged with torturing and killing a bald eagle.

    A federal grand jury in Des Moines returned an indictment Wednesday against Jason John Thomas.

    April 24, 2014

  • Affirmative action ruling challenges colleges seeking diversity

    The U.S. Supreme Court's support of Michigan's ban on race-based affirmative action in university admissions may spur colleges to find new ways to achieve diversity without using racial preferences.

    April 24, 2014

  • 10 Things to Know for Today

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

    April 24, 2014

  • 4-23-14 Northey Burkens committed to ag education CLINTON -- As the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey said his department doesn't hand out the Good Farm Neighbor Award arbitrarily. Only 10 acknowledgements are bestowed each year. On Wednesday, the honor went to a worthy family in Clinton C

    April 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • World Book Night 1 Clinton Public Library hosts largest World Book Night event in the country

    CLINTON -- With more than 21 titles and 800 copies to give away, what reader wouldn't adore an event like World Book Night? Organizers at the Clinton Public Library wondered the same Wednesday, and were pleased with turnout for the third annual event

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Amid Russian warning, Ukraine's in a security bind

    Ukraine's highly publicized goal to recapture police stations and government buildings seized by pro-Russia forces in the east produced little action on the ground Wednesday but ignited foreboding words from Moscow.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that Russia would mount a firm response if its citizens or interests come under attack in Ukraine. Although he did not specifically say Russia would launch a military attack, his comments bolstered wide concern that Russia could use any violence in eastern Ukraine as a pretext for sending in troops.

    April 23, 2014

AP Video