5-Minute Crafts
5-Minute Crafts

Why We Have 5 Fingers

There are many things and phenomena in the world that we tend to take for granted, without thinking about what causes them. For example, not many people know why there are 5 fingers on our hands and feet and not 4 or 6.

5-Minute Crafts decided to study this question and put together some curious information about it.

Common ancestor

If you look closely at animals, you may notice that nature has given 5 fingers to not only humans — cats and dogs also have 5 digits on their front paws. This is not a coincidence. The emergence of precisely 5 digits on the limbs occurred even before the ancient organisms were divided into amphibians, birds, and mammals. This happened about 340 million years ago, in the Lower Carboniferous Period. Before that, organisms with 6, 7, and 8 digits existed on Earth.


Our limbs stem from fish fins. Despite the fact that, as mentioned above, our common ancestor most likely had exactly 5 digits, the ancestors of amphibians, birds, reptiles, and mammals had more than 5 digits in ancient times. However, during the course of evolution, this number was reduced to 5 and has not increased since then. And some animals reduced this number even more. For example, a hoof of a horse has only 1 digit, which helps the animal maintain balance while running.

Why 5

Science doesn’t know for certain why the number of digits on our hands and feet is 5, but this question can be answered as follows: we have 5 fingers because our ancient ancestors had the same number of digits, which was the result of a long evolutionary process.

It’s interesting that there are very few animals that have more than 5 digits. In a general, this reflects the evolutionary rule that it’s easier to lose something than it is to regain it. However, for example, the panda’s wrist bones, unlike those of other bears, have transformed into the so-called sixth digit, which pandas probably find more convenient to live with. But this is quite the exception.

Preview photo credit Depositphotos.com, Depositphotos.com
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