Why do we have toenails?

+29 votes
asked Mar 21, 2015 in Science by Becky (950 points)
Why do nails grow on both our fingers and toe nails? Can't we live without these nails? Thank you for your helpful answers, and keep doing the good work!

3 Answers

+27 votes
answered Mar 31, 2015 by Enid (920 points)
In fact, fingernails and toenails can be said to be related to talons and claws, but unlike talons and claws, they are not vestigial that serve any particular purpose, but they do serve some purposes anyway.

As you might have noticed severally, animals that have nails rather than claws tend to grasp objects such as woods and branches. Nails grew in a way that it enables the hand to grab objects without causing any obstructions. Grab any object near you now, but don't grab any fragile object, and make sure you apply some pressures. You will notice a reciprocation of that pressure at your nail tips and behind the nails. In the absence of those nails, repeated grasping would have resulted in the splitting and ripping of the back of your fingers due to the applied pressure. As you know, it is very bad to have the tips of your fingers splitting apart gradually, so nails are very good things.

Now you may be wondering what good the toe nails serve, though we never grab anything using our feet, plantigrade is the fancy term, and they are just fine. Toenails, as a matter of fact is vestigial in our case, but when you consider our evolutionary ancestors and our closest primate relatives, you will agree that they are not vestigial after all. Several other primates can make use of their feet to grasp, and toenail serve the same purpose with your finger nails since they are located on your feet.
+8 votes
answered Mar 24, 2015 by michele (940 points)
Well, I know many people will give answers like "they have toe nails so they can use beautiful colors on them, as a way of attracting the opposite sex for mating". When it comes to finger nails, you will understand that several other animals, especially mammals we are related to do have claws or fingernails as well. And these nails serve very useful purposes. Our having them may equally be due to the fact that they serve as very useful tools. Taking your mind back to when man first evolved from our ancestors, fingernails are extremely useful for picking up objects: removing the skin of a fruit, and for scratching itching sensations.

But why do we have toenails? Maybe because our forefathers did have them, all chimpanzees and other creatures that look like them are known to manipulate objects and our toenails help us grip objects easily. So in reality, nails can be said to be 20 wonderful tools that find usefulness in our day-to-day living which explains why we still find them on our fingers and toes. We should be glad we still have these natural tools, things can get quite painful and difficult without these little tools.
+7 votes
answered Mar 25, 2015 by LAWRENCE (1,330 points)
I believe our nails are quite vestigial. If we go as far back as the dinosaurs and Chicxulub days, the very small shrews that hid and survived in the rocks all had nails and claws on their small legs. They were probably the most reasonable ancestry link we have with any mammals. Though we have lost our tail through evolution, but there is still a vestigial tail as well as an appendix for the digestion of grass.
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