Why do we have toenails? © Getty Images

Why do we have toenails?

Yes, they’re gross. But what’s the point in them?

Nails are made of keratin, a protein found in hair, fur, claws and hooves. But unlike claws, nails are wide and flat, shielding the tips of fingers and toes from injury.

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As well as protecting your delicate digits, fingernails provide a rigid backing to help you grab and separate small objects. Just imagine picking up a jigsaw piece or peeling a sticker from its backing – you’d struggle without nails.

Monkeys and apes also use their feet for delicate tasks like these, and scientists believe nails evolved in primates to help with operations like removing ticks and grasping branches tightly.

Asked by: Andy Orton

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