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Our Fingers have Sensors of their Own

by Meenal Bhatia

Our Fingers have Sensors of their Own

May 27, 2021

Your fingerprints are way more important than being your unique blueprint (and your phone lock too) Now, a new study explains how our fingers have way more important functions than just giving us unique fingerprints. They have their own sensors!

What do humans and koalas have that none of the other evolved species have? Fingerprints! 

Scientists have been trying to understand the need for fingerprints and what we know so far is that those tiny ridges provide us with additional grip, but scientists never knew how. However, part of the answer has been found and it is a tiny system. An average of 150 ridges is present in each fingerprint with 10 to 11 seat pores in every 1cm of the ridges! That’s too much going on in such a tiny space.

"Primates have evolved epidermal ridges on their hands and feet. During contact with solid objects, fingerprint ridges are important for grip and precision manipulation.”

- Mike Adams, Chemical Engineer, The University of Birmingham, UK

A Touch to reveal it all

Scientists asked six male volunteers to touch glass. Seems easy right? Well, but the system is quite complex. Through close up laser imaging it was seen that the ridges released additional moisture to increase friction and strengthen grip between the finger and glass.

However, if extra moisture was released the sweat pores were blocked and quick evaporation happened to remove excess moisture! This sweat channel blocking and evaporation technique reveal that apart from being careful where we leave our fingerprints, it hints our success as evolutionary creatures, too.

When in contact with solid, smooth, impermeable objects, the ridges play a vital role in providing grip. This moisture regulating system provides an evolutionary advantage of grip despite dry or wet conditions. No wonder humans and primates were able to travel more than other animals.

This means there’s a finely tuned system controlling how wet or dry our fingertips are, that basically acts like sensors.

Our fingers react to various types of surfaces and the sensors make the grip as strong as possible.

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The Grip Development

The exact system of how this happens is yet unclear, but what is certain is that will develop technological and grip developments. We may soon expect, slip-resistant phones and everyday objects with increased grip. It also makes us realise the secret wonders of our body.

This moisture also hydrates the hands and fingers and keep them softer and less prone to cracks as compared to the rest of the animal kingdom. So you can finally understand how you get a sudden death grip on objects during disastrous situations.

Apart from using your fingerprints to set up powerful passwords or for legal documentation, it’s wonderful to realise the major work done behind executing simple tasks like typing. Do you want to test your grip by throwing your phone and immediately catching it?

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