Why do we have fingernails?

We use fingernails to peel a fruit or pop open a tin box. We paint them, bite them when anxious and also use them to play scratch card games. But are fingernails vital for human survival? Not really, they are simply a little gift from evolution. The purpose of fingernails for humans is limited. Apart from shielding our fingertips and the dense network of blood vessels, muscles and flesh beneath them from injuries, fingernails help scratch things off.

But for other primates such as macaques and lemurs, fingernails are vital for survival. Nails help them in picking fruits, climbing trees and digging holes.

Fingernails are made of a translucent protein called keratin. This is the same protein that makes up your hair, and hooves of horses, cows and zebras. Nails evolved from claws found in other animals.

Human fingernails are actually flattened versions of claws. All primates, including ancient ancestors of humans, had claws that helped them maintain a strong grip around objects. So when did the early human start losing his claws? About 2.5 million years ago around the same time when he started using stone tools. His fingertips and claws started becoming broader than those of his predecessors. To strike stone tools together, he required a firm grip, something only broad fingertips could provide.

Did you know your nails can reveal your overall health? For instance, pale nails can indicate anaemia, while discoloured, cracking nails can be a sign of psoriasis.


Picture Credit : Google