In some cases, the dimensions are markers of the kind of womb environment that the growing foetus was exposed to, while in others they are a visible sign of the early afterbirth environment, including nutrition and family wealth.

Some of the most intriguing research centres on the so-called digit ratio theory put forward by evolutionary psychologist Professor John Manning, now attached to Swansea and Southampton universities, and author of The Finger Ratio, due to be published shortly by Faber & Faber.

The theory is that the finger ratio is a historical record of what went on in the womb at a time when the brain, heart, and other organs were growing.

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"It may be that there are more receptors on the ring finger than the index finger.

It is interesting that if you look at the back of the fingers, people are more likely to have hairs on the middle part between the two joints of the ring finger than the index.

Exactly how testosterone affects the foetal digit ratio is not clear.

One theory is that for a certain time in foetal development, there are testosterone receptors on the fingers, and that the ring finger may have more of these receptors and therefore more likely to grow faster when exposed to higher levels of the hormone.

Roger Dobson explains how the size and shape of body parts can speak volumes about our health, fertility, and even our personality traits Forget good feet, it's the hands that are the mark of a good runner.

Successful sprinters and endurance athletes are more likely to have long ring fingers than the also-rans, according to new research – based on the running speeds and times of young men.

Research is showing that when it comes to health and longevity, size and body dimensions of all kinds matter.

Leg and trunk length have been linked to heart disease and diabetes, height with prostate and breast cancers, head circumference with intelligence, hips with fertility and attractiveness, and birth weight with depression, diabetes and high blood pressure.

More controversially, researchers have also suggested a link between both male and female homosexuality and digit ratio, but other research has found no effect.