MadSci Network: Evolution

Re: why do only fingers (and toes) have fingerprints?

Date: Tue Feb 8 16:03:00 2000
Posted By: R. James Swanson
Area of science: Evolution
ID: 948185711.Ev

Dear Pat,

Your glabrous (bald or smooth) skin is probably better for gripping things than non-glabrous skin. In addition, imagine what you would look like if you had hair on your fingertips and toe tips. You’d get hair on your toast when eating it with you fingers, yuk! And you would get peanut butter and jelly all in your fingertip hair when eating a PB&J. Seriously though, the fine ridges that we call prints are probably an added help in allowing moisture to run out from under our fingertips increasing the ease of holding on to things; kind of like tire treads maybe. I don’t think anybody knows for sure why fingerprints are there. Why-type questions are for the most part outside the bounds of science investigation. We can work on how-type questions with good success but the why of things is generally beyond our reach and only open to speculation. I guess you’re just stuck with those prints.

Have a good day, Dr. Swanson

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