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.
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
- Why do my fingernails grow faster in a hot country?
- How did cavemen cut their toenails?
- Do fingernails and hair really keep growing after death?
- What are the white semi-circles at the bottom of our finger and thumb nails?
To submit your questions email us at firstname.lastname@example.org (don’t forget to include your name and location)