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Evolutionary Nail Biting?/ Usefulness of Ancestral Behaviors


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So this started as i was clipping my toenails, and i wondered what prehistoric man did about toenails, and decided he probably bit them (any other primitave tool use would probably cause injury). I do not bite my tonails (i used to when i was little) but i have bitten my fingernails all my life. Is this a behavior left over from evolution? In the case of people that don't bite their nails, are they more evolved? is the differerence enviromental or genetic? i'm guessing genetic, because to me its just natural, i start doing it without thinking. Both my parents are nail biters.

If you think this is gross, i'll have you know that some very respectable people are nail biters---- Elijah Wood for one. And he didn't stop for the filming of LOTR, if you look at his nails when he holds the ring, they are very short.

 

This led me to thinking about how many inherited behaviors are eventually weeded out by evolution, and this led me to ponder man's growing power of genetic engineering. I wonder, when the time comes if we have the power, how we may change our own genome, and how we might recklessly delete some of our features that we may again need someday. In the comfort of technology we may overestimate ourselves, and when the shield is removed, find that we are not equipt to survive some very simple challenges.

 

This lead me to an idea for a policy we should keep to prevent genetic engineering disaster: Previous adaptation should never be deleted to make room for new ones, it should remain in addition.

 

Ancient adaptations have obviously been naturally lost in evolution. But what if they hadn't? What if we could still do everything we used to be able to do IN ADDITION to our new abilities. We'd still be able to live in water, what other things would we still be able to do? Is there anyway we can regain all the adaptations "no longer need". We may not need certain adaptations in our common enviroment, but being able to breath under water would prevent drowning. Or what about this warm-blooded thing? If we still had the reptile ablitility to conserve energy at diff. temps, we wouldn't be as likely to freeze to death or get heat exhaustion.

 

The adaptations we got instead of keeping the old ones are good, but the old ones would still be useful.

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  • 2 weeks later...
there it is. you were around it your whole life. you just saw your parents and emulated it.

 

This may be true for some people, but neither of my parents bite their nails and I have always bitten my nails. I don't think anyone else in my family bites their nails actually. So I think that it is genetic, at least partially.

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That is very interesting point Nava. Now that I think of it, yes I would agree that it is genetic and that yes it would be cool to have some old adaptions back while others mighten be so useful. This is a very interesting thread.......

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i think elijah woods's nailbiting shows that elfs or fairies or whatever he played are natural nail biters. if you look at the more respectable people like stephen hawking, you might realize this isnt common in humans:)

 

sorry inamorata, i thought using hawking as an example was funny. Nailbiting doesnt make you less respectful. and if you've presented at conferences, then you must be a respectable person.

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I am a serious nail biter. And a scientist with a PhD in Medicine. With publications and I have presented at conferences.

 

Am I not respectable? Or human?

 

 

btw. Nobody else in my family bites their nails. I have done so since i was a child.

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Hey! glad this thread caught on a bit finally. i thought it was an interesting subject.

 

As for it being genetic, i'd say its triggered by something psychologically. Being that some can be the only nail biters in their family suggests that something has activated it that person. I still think its an evolutionary behavior left over from before fingernail clippers, but it would have been such universerally needed self-maintainence behavior that i bet every single person still has the genes that tell them to manage the nail length. If any person were put in an enviroment without nail clippers, they'd start biting them. Obviously this is just a simple solution to a problem, but i still say its evolutionary, or else why would some people still do it, when our technology does not require such primitive method.

So i wonder what psychological factor makes an individual revert to this behavior, and if say it can be linked to other things, such as: all nail biters are of superior intelligence, evident by their nature not to discard evolutionary behavior :cool::D

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i think elijah woods's nailbiting shows that elfs or fairies or whatever he played are natural nail biters. if you look at the more respectable people like stephen hawking, you might realize this isnt common in humans

I'm not sure Hawking is the best example to be honest, given his condition.

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Hey! glad this thread caught on a bit finally. i thought it was an interesting subject.

 

As for it being genetic' date=' i'd say its triggered by something psychologically. Being that some can be the only nail biters in their family suggests that something has activated it that person. I still think its an evolutionary behavior left over from before fingernail clippers, but it would have been such universerally needed self-maintainence behavior that i bet every single person still has the genes that tell them to manage the nail length. If any person were put in an enviroment without nail clippers, they'd start biting them. Obviously this is just a simple solution to a problem, but i still say its evolutionary, or else why would some people still do it, when our technology does not require such primitive method.

So i wonder what psychological factor makes an individual revert to this behavior, and if say it can be linked to other things, such as: all nail biters are of superior intelligence, evident by their nature not to discard evolutionary behavior :cool::D[/quote']

 

I really do not agree with that at all. Why does all behaviour require a genetic basis, or in some way be related to our evolution?

 

Maybe people cut their nails just simply because it is easier to use their fingers when your nails are short? Why do people shave? Not just their face, but under the arms, the legs, the pubic area, their arms etc etc? or cut the hair on their heads? Or why do people indulge in any habit, bad or good? Nose-picking? pen tapping? List any habit that somebody may have?

 

I really dont see how genetics would influence wanting to keep your nails short. Unless somebody has evidence, from twin studies etc, that might convince me otherwise....

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my evidence is common sense, nails too long get in the way. Before clippers nail biting would be the way everyone took care of it. Nose picking is probably evolutionary also.

Shaving is different, because short hair is not as important for surivival. Nails however are directly related to the efficiency of using your hands. Seen that guy with the longest nails in the world? They're all nasty and curly---- having nails like that would be fatal to survival. Of coarse in the modern world he doesn't have to hunt or anything like his ancestors

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I can see where you're coming from with the evolutionary behaviour. Things like nail biting may very well be instinct that some humans keep from their ancestors, and others have left behind. Actually, nose-picking, as gross as this may sound, helps develop immune systems in little children. Eating what is basically dirt, somehow helps the immune system. I suppose in the same way that those exposed to sicknesses when young can become stronger against it, such as getting chicken pox when young.

 

I highly doubt that this would have anything to do with one's intelligence level. Though there are problems that tend to be common in some of the world's brilliant minds, such as dislexia. I know Einstien was dislexic, and a few others were also. Something about the way ones brain works at that level I believe. Though, there are dislexic people who are not very bright. So maybe it is a common factor in more intelligent people, that they tend to bite their nails. By no means would that be saying maybe most nail biters are smarter than the average intelligence level. I dunno though. I mean, have any studies been conducted on this? Maybe you could try your own study?

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I am a serious nail biter. And a scientist with a PhD in Medicine. With publications and I have presented at conferences.

 

Am I not respectable? Or human?

 

 

btw. Nobody else in my family bites their nails. I have done so since i was a child.

I always bit my nails until one day it just meant enough to me to stop. It's like any habit not involving addictive poisons, you kick it when you're tired of it.

 

Until then, don't worry about it. Worrying may be one of the causes. You'll stop when you want to stop, not before.

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Nail Biting, pencil chewing, thumb sucking are probably related to the suckling response. Of course, babies with a strong suckling response are going to have a better chance at survival. When you feel anxiety, you feel relief from suckling.

 

The nurture side of the equation is how society, parents and the person view the habit and the willingness to stop doing it.

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I like the suckling response argument the best I think. It might explain a little better to me why some people continue this sort of behaviour well into old-age, when we are clearly capable of thinking and reasoning and understanding why a behaviour is not required.

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