• Culture

Why Do Humans Have Fingernails?

Have you ever looked down at your hands (perhaps while they were being painted in a nail salon) and thought: why do we have nails? One of the mysteries of human evolution, scientists are still debating whether or not they're a leftover, flattened version of claws, or a completely separate adaptation.

When you think of all the things your fingernails help do, it makes sense that evolutionary adaptation didn't eliminate them (unlike the tail). You can peel an orange easily, undo knots, scratch an itch, and pick your nose, all with the help of fingernails. They can even function as an early warning sign of potential malnutrition or health risks.

And how about toenails? Why do we have toenails? Early humans were thought to use all four limbs for climbing, and toenails definitely help with gripping (think about longer, thick, claw-like nails that early humans would have had). Useful back then, but why do we still have toenails? Why do humans have nails, period? Read on to discover all the fascinating reasons why humans have nails!

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  • Nails Are Indicators for Certain Health Conditions

    Doctors can identify certain health conditions by looking at someone's nails. Beau's Lines, for example, are nail ridges that can be a result of poorly controlled diabetes or a heart or liver condition, among other things. 

    Researchers say even bowel diseases can be "seen" in the nails: "clubbing," for example, indicates pulmonary or inflammatory bowel disease. Spoon-shaped nails, meanwhile, may be a sign of anemia.

  • Nails Are Also Indicators of Overall Health and Nutrition

    Fingernails and toenails can indicate the presence of certain diseases, but may also point to overall problems with your health and nutrition. For example, if nails are weak and brittle, you may need more keratin. Vitamin deficiencies can also cause issues with your nails. 

    Research has shown that not getting enough vitamin B12, for example, can cause brown-gray nail discoloration. Pink or red nails that got that way without nail polish suggest malnutrition, which is ironic, considering that those colors are considered healthy and sexy when artificial.