6-Fingered Family’s Impressive Dexterity Suggests We All Need an Extra Digit

While having an extra digit was once revered by ancient canyon dwellers, extra fingers are usually removed today. A recent case study of two unique individuals published in Nature Communications, however, suggests they’re worth keeping, outlining the impressive advantages that extra digits can bring and how the brain can drive this superior dexterity.

The case study, published in early June, describes a 52-year-old mother and her 17-year-old child who were both born with an extra finger between their pointer finger and thumb. It’s been reported that roughly 0.2 percent of people are born with extra digits (in various positions on the hands and feet), but others estimate that one person out of every 700 to 1,000 live births has an extra appendage.

Not all those people can move their extra digits. But those investigated in the case study were capable of some extraordinary dexterity, says study author Carsten Mehring, Ph.D., at the University of Freiburg in Germany. He and his colleagues were so impressed that they wrote: “it may be of value to augment normal five-fingered hands with an artificial supernumerary finger.”