Why Do We Have Nails? The Answer May Surprise You

The human body consists of several fascinating organs and organ systems, that have come together to build a thoroughly functioning and complete human being capable of breathing, thinking, and accomplishing extraordinary things. One such truly fascinating part of the body is our fingers and toenails.

Human beings are one such unique species of mammals that have nails instead of claws. Most mammals have claws on their upper as well as lower limbs. But why do humans have nails instead of claws?

The answer is simple. Evolution!

Over millions of years, each species of animal have grown and gone through a biological phenomenon known as evolution. Similarly, human beings have gone through the evolution stage to develop nails that help them pick things up, hold them, and do work with their fingers.

What is Evolution?

In your middle school, you must have studied about Darwin and his theory of “Survival of the Fittest”. Darwin had conducted a comprehensive study on evolution when he noticed the finches on the Galapagos Island. After conducting a careful observation and comprehensive study on the finches, Darwin had concluded his Theory of Evolution. 

There were about fifteen species of finches grazing the island. All of them had broad and stout beaks that made it hard for them to hunt small fishes and continue their life cycle. Sustenance had become a challenge for them and this is when a few species started evidently showing significant traces of evolution. The shape of their beaks evolved significantly in terms of shape and size. With time, it became more protruded, shaper as well as longer. Eventually, the species of finches that showed traces of evolution continued to survive whereas the ones that didn’t evolve slowly became extinct over time. Thus the concept of “survival of the fittest” became well-known scientists and evolutionary biologists all across the world.

Why Do Humans Have Finger Nails?

The concept of evolution has been widely prevalent when it comes to human beings as well. Many of us must have heard of the saying “Humans have emerged from monkeys.” Is it true? Absolutely!

Research and fossil studies have shown that Homo Sapiens or humans as we know them today have evolved from the great Ape family and share characteristic features, including the shape of limbs, formation or tarsals, and metatarsals as well as brain size and function with the ape family.

When the first Homo sapiens evolved from its extinct counterpart, the Homo heidelbergenesis, it carried fingers and toenails instead of claws. With time, Homo sapiens lived long enough to procreate and pass on their exact genetic composition to their offspring. These genetic compositions contained information regarding the formation of fingers and toenails. This is how humans have evolved over a period of time and have grown fingers and toenails instead of claws!

Having nails instead of claws has been quite beneficial for our kind. Nails are usually helpful when it comes to doing daily chores as well as for other basic uses of your limbs such as picking up, holding, grabbing, etc. Humans slowly evolved from being wild creatures to hunter-gatherers. They started making proper utilization of their upper limbs which promoted the development of stronger muscles, long fingers, and most importantly, nails.

For most primates, the lower limbs are a lot stronger than the upper limbs. Lower limbs are used for walking, maintaining body balance as well as building up a stance. This is why even claws in the lower limbs of primates have evolved to become toenails. Humans don’t really use toenails to pick up things but a vast majority of other primates use both of their limbs to pick up and grab items, resulting in developed toenails.

A Comparison Between Claws and Nails

Now that we have covered everything about the evolution and how human beings ended up developing nails on their fingers as well as their toes, why don’t we go ahead and make a comparison between nails and claws?

In order to accomplish things that primates do, nails are a much better option as compared to claws. Wondering why?

Look at the shape of your nails. They are broad, mostly rounded, and flat. Holding, picking, and grabbing become so much easier when you have nails. Let me give you a simple instance. Most women grow their nails longer, right? These days claw-like sharp nail extensions and nail art are highly in trend. However, if you ask them if it’s easier to work with or without long nails, the answer will always be the latter! Having long nails makes every basic task like eating, holding, cleaning, etc extremely difficult.

Nails, on the other hand, have completely different purposes. Animals like cats and dogs use their claws for activities such as climbing, gripping, digging, etc, Most mammals who possess claws also have very small digits on their limbs, allowing very limited movement. This is why it is almost impossible for them to pick or grab like humans and other primates.

What Would Happen if we Didn’t Have Nails?

A lot of things could have happened if humans didn’t have nails. Speaking in financial terms, nail parlors and salons would face a massive financial blow as this service would completely be invalid.

If we didn’t have nails and just had the piece of soft flesh instead, it would really make life a lot harder. Holding and getting a grip on things would become absolutely impossible. Additionally, the skin underneath your fingers is richly supplied with blood vessels. In the absence of nails, we would be running a huge risk of hurting our fingers and bleeding to death easily. Nails are exoskeletons that protect one of the softest tissue in our body while adding shape and functionality to the finger. 

Other than this, wouldn’t it be really sad if we couldn’t occasionally paint our nails in the brightest colors, making them look beautiful? That’s something to think about!

In this article, we have extensively covered about nails, the story behind their evolution, their usage in the human body, and more. We are hoping that this blog would help you truly appreciate your nails a little more than ever!

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Mario Garciahttp://beinghuman.org
Hello I am Mario Garcia, I find human beings fascinating, especially our more or less endearing behavior. Bit by bit I’ve come to see us human beings not as autonomous agents in conscious control of our lives, but as incredibly complex biological organisms embedded in the process of our evolving culture. Here in our blog you will find a lot of life hacks, tech tips and information about just Being Human

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