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The hand and arm are exactly human from the shoulder to the intermediate phalanges. The distal phalanges are conical, as in clawed animals, and is entirely surrounded by a keratinous claw. There is no fingertip on the fingers, and the entire claw is about as sensitive as the back of a human fingernail.

Could such a hand make and use tools as well as a human hand with fingernails can make and use tools?

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    $\begingroup$ What makes you think an aimal needs soft finger tips to grap something then put it back down? Any great elite artist will tell you the drawing mostion comes from the elbow and the shoulder not the hand.... you draw with your arms not with your fingers.... The only use for soft fingertips is using smartphones $\endgroup$
    – user100394
    Jan 17, 2023 at 22:57
  • $\begingroup$ but a hammer, nail, pencil, fork, knife, sword or brush does not require in the use instructions for you to not have clawed fingers. Even birds can use tools, and they have sharp tallons. $\endgroup$
    – user100394
    Jan 17, 2023 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Cataphract There are a lot more things than smartphones that people use their fingertips for $\endgroup$ Jan 17, 2023 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ By definition, the answer is no. But would they work if I suspended my disbelief? Yes. In fact, intelligent clawed creatures aren't that uncommon in SciFi. But to be entirely fair, how would we know having no example of a clawed creature that builds complex tools? Frankly, if the claw's connection to the rest of the hand has similar pressure sensitivity to the tip of the human finger, then the answer would be yes. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 18, 2023 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ Many women wear their finger nails long, so that they can hardly touch anything with their finger tips. They seem to be living perfectly normal and fulfilling lives. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 18, 2023 at 0:47

2 Answers 2

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Even with moderately thick gloves that significantly dampen the sensitivity of my fingerprints I can be fairly dexterous. For example: I can easily throw an axe without a sling, I can pick a tomato without squashing it, I can hand-write a thank-you note. I would be more clumsy at some tasks - but much of the proprioception in handling and manipulating objects involves sensing whole-finger to object, palm to object, and finger to finger pressure rather than sensing details of texture and shape with fingertips. Additionally, those who have lost (through accident) their distal phalanges, can still sense things quite finely (if not as finely) with their intermediate phalanges. I believe that as long as the clawed characters retained opposing thumbs and pressure sensitivity in their palms, they could develop, manufacture and use tools about as well as humans. Some of the tools would be a designed a little differently to those we are used to and in some operations (like reading Braille for example) they would be more clumsy than humans, but there would be other manipulations in which the claws would be of benefit - opening those pesky plastic shrink-wrapped containers for example. And if you asked a clawed 'human' if they could perform as well with the tools their civilization had developed if they lost their claws and had them replaced with soft fragile pads at the end of their fingers - I recon many of them would doubt that the 'tender-fingers' could perform as well.

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" the entire claw is about as sensitive as the back of a human fingernail."

Fingers without tactile feedback are not handy

My primary reference for a question like this is my past involvement in robotics. Yes, a smart servo system using 4-5 axes of freedom and AI is perfectly suited for picking up boxes of any shape with metal grippers, as long as these boxes are solid objects. Issues start, when the object is not solid, or soft. To prevent damage, the metal pickers would be coated with softer material to prevent damage, and in modern versions, the servo is adjusted dynamically, using touch surface sensors. This kind of technology exists in medical robots, personal assistant robots, allowing these devices to help e.g. elderly people out of bed, or handle food, or glass objects.

Now suppose, nature has not solved above issues (you have a claw) and tool making starts 2.000.000 years before developing robots - it is easy to make an axe, but to throw it without a sling ? more difficult, you'll need sensory perception while making it, judging its shape, or even handling it. Apes and humans can throw objects very easily and accurately, because they have hands and fingers with tactile feedback.

Your clawed alien will have to do with eyes only. It will need good eyes, and it will need to look at a worked piece, at any time. This can be a serious handicap for any activities involving precision and soft objects. Everything from peeling a banana to, handling wood, eventually, holding a pen, for writing.. they'll need some more time to develop than apes !

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    $\begingroup$ They can still get pressure feedback from the claw interacting with the rest of the finger, even if there aren't sensory nerves in the claw itself. $\endgroup$ Jan 17, 2023 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ the back of the nail is extremely sensitive, after all it's exposed meat covered beneath 0.3 millimeter worth of nails... the dead skin on your hand can be thicker than that and often is up to 10 times or more thicker than that if you workout or if you are an avid pen writer $\endgroup$
    – user100394
    Jan 17, 2023 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ ++ thanks for the feedback. Biology may provide solutions for some of the issues, but I think hands and fingers have helped apes in development of advanced skills. Their delicate fingers with sensory means on the surface.. and at the same time, strong grip. That made me write above answer. The question put by Ichthys King sais "as well", it asks for a comparison. Would it work as well ? My conclusion: they'd have a disadvantage in development regarding tool making and tool using. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jan 18, 2023 at 11:04
  • $\begingroup$ @LoganR.Kearsley the animal needs that sensory feedback from the joints. A lion, or a bird with claws is perfectly capable of not injuring its young. In terms of robotics, yes the joints do have sensors (grip stength) but they lack detailed input, it is like having18 sensors instead of 200.000. With tool making and tool using, the ape has the advantage of knowing how the object is postured in the hand. Claws can't do that. A joint sensor only knows the mass it is displacing. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jan 18, 2023 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Cataphract try to balance a stick or pen, on your fingernail. Then try the same without looking. Now repeat both experiments balancing the object on your finger (not the top). That can be done without looking at the object ! In terms of robotics: it is all a matter of resolution: sensor density. Apes have a clear advantage having no fur on the inside of their hands. There are thousands of active sensors connected to the brain. Claws don't have that.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jan 18, 2023 at 11:25

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