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The Mystery Behind Number 10: Why Ten Fingers and Ten Toes?

by Ane Krstevska

number 10

A lot of people have come to understand the powers that opposable thumbs have. If we don’t have a thumb, that funny and useful fifth appendage on each hand, we would struggle to open jars, thumb a ride or shake hands.

As human beings, we could have had any other number of fingers and toes, but somehow, we got only ten.

What is so special about this number? 

According to the explanation of Lissette Padilla, the reality is that we do not really know why. However, scientists have some quite good guesses, such as four fingers and one thumb are very useful for climbing through trees. There was, in fact, no pressure to gain any more or lose any of them. This has been the magic of evolution, and our extremely early ancestors evolved the structural layout.

If you doubt, you may always consult a theoretical neurobiologist. In 2001, one researcher and author named Mark Changizi, has proposed a mathematical hypothesis which is called Limb Law. The equation of Mark tries to suss out the ideal number of limbs which an animal requires, which depends on its environment and size of its body.

Applying the Limb Law to about 190 animal species from seven distinct phyla, Mark discovered that his math held up – and he even suspects that the same equation could explain why humans have ten fingers. In this particular case, our hands are the ‘animal,’ and our fingers are the ‘limbs.’ When we crunch the number, we will get 4.71 fingers per hand. Mother Nature makes wonders.

However, if you ask an evolutionary biologist, you can get a quite simpler answer: The reason why we have ten toes and ten fingers is as, somewhere in the past wanderings of Darwin of our species, those numbers gave us an evolutionary advantage. If the events tumbled in a different way differently, we would probably have eight fingers and twelve toes.

One interesting side note: Cliff Tabin, who is a geneticist from Harvard, who specializes in vertebrate limb development, suggested that if we ever did evolve a sixth finger, it will probably grow out of our wrists, like in the panda.

When we speak about genetics, there is still another way of coming at the question. In 2014, one research team which was led by James Sharpe from the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain, determined that toes and fingers are patterned by three specific embryonic molecules – the Bmp, Wnt, and Sox9.

The basis for the discovery was, in fact, a theory which was first proposed by science superhero Alan Turning back in 1952.

It is believed that God gave the people the Ten Commandments. All of those equally sacred, equally binding and equally the word of God. All of these commandments are treated as equally important, because human beings, with our limited understanding of the universe, have no way of knowing which one is more important in the eyes of the Creator. Exquisitely crafted with high quality alloy plated with Tibetan silver and enhanced with black tones, this Tibetan Silver Plated 10 Commandments Pendant Necklace brings out a vintage look and brings out the detail of the design.

Image Credit: Ane Krstevska

Ane Krstevska



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