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Q: Why do we have fingernails? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   10 Comments )
Subject: Why do we have fingernails?
Category: Science > Biology
Asked by: barnacle_bill-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 24 Feb 2005 08:39 PST
Expires: 26 Mar 2005 08:39 PST
Question ID: 480087
Question that has already been answered, but out of some kind of moral
goodwill that I for some reason or other cant get rid of, I am
reposting it as a seperate question - Solely for THX115
Thanks again


Clarification of Question by barnacle_bill-ga on 24 Feb 2005 08:44 PST
Sorry thats - THX1138
Subject: Re: Why do we have fingernails?
Answered By: thx1138-ga on 24 Feb 2005 08:56 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello again barnacle_bill,

It was very nice of you to post this question for me, thank you!

"Why do we have fingernails?"

"Our fingernails are similar to claws or hooves found in other
animals. More generally called ?digital appendages?, they are enlarged
keratinized structures (the same stuff that horns are made out of)
that protect the tips of the fingers and toes in most vertebrate
species, or aminals with backbones. Fingernails are broad, and
slightly curved, and mostly cover the top surface of our fingers.

In other species, this structure is slightly different - for example,
crocodiles have a thimble-shaped structure that covers the whole tip
of their digits, whereas hawks and owls have talons, highly recurved
claws specialized for prey capture, and horses and cows have hooves
that protect their feet.

So, the reason we have fingernails is simply that everyone in our
family tree has some sort of digital appendage that probably served to
protect fingertips in our distant ancestors, and each group has
evolved modifications that best fit their needs for a particular
environment. Fingernails in monkeys, apes and humans always cover only
one side of the fingertip and thus they protect but don?t limit the
motion or sensitivity of our fingertips."

Also see:

"Only primates evolved finger and toenails, probably to provide better
grip on tree trunks and branches.

Roland Ennos and his team at the University of Manchester, UK,
wondered what gave the nail its structural properties. He says, "I
have always been a bit of a nail-biter, and I noticed that whenever
you bite your nails, they never break into the quick of your skin. And
for a material, that's very, very unusual." So Ennos's team armed with
special scissors and tweezers, tore and cut nails, and studied them
under a scanning electron microscope."

Thank you for your question, and if you need any clarification of my
answer, do not hesitate to ask prior to rating my answer.

Very best regards


Search strategy included:
evolution fingernails
barnacle_bill-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
top notch

Subject: Re: Why do we have fingernails?
From: r23sakamoto-ga on 24 Feb 2005 09:07 PST
So you really posted this question lol
great show !
Subject: Re: Why do we have fingernails?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 24 Feb 2005 09:34 PST
Perhaps we have fingernails so that we can scratch our itches without
having to find a tool.

Once, when I was very ill, I lost my fingernails. The worst part of
the experience was that there was no way to scratch when I itched.
Subject: Re: Why do we have fingernails?
From: barnacle_bill-ga on 24 Feb 2005 10:09 PST
Did they grow back? hope so

I lost my taste buds once when I was ill in India!  thankfully they
have all grown back.

Subject: Re: Why do we have fingernails?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 24 Feb 2005 10:43 PST
My fingernails did grow back. Otherwise I would surely have gone mad
from unscratchable itches.
Subject: Re: Why do we have fingernails?
From: eliteskillsdotcom-ga on 24 Feb 2005 11:15 PST
Not just itches. I'm sure in the caveman times or even medieval times
all kinds of mites and bugs and may attach themselves to the flesh.

If it was to protect the fingers why not have a fingernail chips over
each fragement of the finger. Placing it on the tip and only on the
tip is so we can use the hard surface as a tool.

If there's a bug in their ears good luck with no fingernails. They
wouldn't have felt too self conscious about picking their nose either.
Subject: Re: Why do we have fingernails?
From: capitaineformidable-ga on 24 Feb 2005 11:24 PST
Hi BB. I was skim reading this and I thought you said you lost your
testacles in India. I had to get to the end of the line to see if they
grew back.

Subject: Re: Why do we have fingernails?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 24 Feb 2005 11:26 PST
Mon Capitaine,

Upon rereading, I think the actual items lost were "taste tickles." 

Subject: Re: Why do we have fingernails?
From: barnacle_bill-ga on 24 Feb 2005 12:17 PST
monsieur formidable

lol, waths stargne is taht you porbbalby can raed tihs tohugh!

Subject: Re: Why do we have fingernails?
From: guzzi-ga on 24 Feb 2005 18:57 PST
Here?s one to run through your thought-mill. Grooming.

Mutual grooming has evolved as an essential social function in
primates. Fingernails are wonderfully evolved for this function. If
you doubt this, think of times of sexual intimacy when a hiatus in
proceedings is occasioned by one party discovering a juicy pluke (zit,
spot, acne) on the other party?s back. This poses another fascinating
link, namely why are we so prone to plukes at a time when we are
making overtures to break from social norms, ie adolescence? I would
suggest that this is nature?s antagonistic response to limit the
excesses of ?breakout?. Again, if you doubt this, most plukes are in
places which one either cannot see or reach (prior to mirrors), namely
face, shoulders or back. There are generations of mothers who simply
cannot resist their child?s facial spots.

I would point out that there is no plan or reason as to why things
evolve in a specific direction, save environmental imperatives which
initially inspire characteristics. If however these characteristics go
unchecked by antagonistic aspects, the species would suffer and die
out. So it is difficult to answer what came first, social coherence,
mutual grooming, fingernails or plukes, but they (and other features)
all inter-depend.

Of course it might just be for nose bogies.

Subject: Re: Why do we have fingernails?
From: anthy-ga on 21 Mar 2005 00:55 PST
I think the answer is true, and if your wondering, it is believed that
any keratinised structure is a remnent of the scales we had when we
were fish (pre-dinosauor). As we've evolved they have adapted to more
teresterial uses

P.S. my spelling is bad because i have dyslexia(that word's right
infront of me!!) so leave a comment if you don't understand any of the

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