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Why do we have nails?

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People get into the Guinness World Records for all sorts of weird and wacky things. At the time of this post in July 2021, the record for longest nails on a single hand ever belongs to Shridhar Chillal. He grew them for an incredible 66 years. When he cut them, each nail measured almost 200 centimetres!

Believe it or not, the point of nails is not to be displayed in a Ripley's Believe It or Not museum. Their main purpose is simply to protect the ends of our fingers and toes. Nails are made of a hard protein called keratin. As the nail grows, new cells push the older cells up. The outside part of the nail, the nail plate, is made of dead cells. This is why it doesn't hurt to cut your nails. But if you stub your toe or close a drawer on your fingertip — ouch! The plate covers the nail bed, which contains many nerve endings and blood vessels.

Only primates (a group of mammals including humans, apes and monkeys) have flat nails. But many other animals have similar body parts also made of keratin, like claws, hooves or talons.

Fingernails also help us handle small objects and scratch when we are itchy. Not to mention they are very useful for turning book pages! So take good care of your nails and keep them clean, like the rest of your body.

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