Birds of prey, also known as raptors, rely heavily on their talons for capturing prey. Raptors include vultures, buzzards, kites and hawks and range dramatically in body size.
In this study we investigate whether raptor talon morphology has evolved primarily in response to different dietary demands, or if is largely constrained phylogeny or adult body mass. We compared the hallux talon of 21 species varying in body mass and feeding ecology, ranging from active predation on relatively large prey to obligate scavenging.
To quantify the variation in talon shape and biomechanical performance within a phylogenetic framework, we combined three dimensional (3D) geometric morphometrics, finite element modelling and phylogenetic comparative methods.
Our results indicate that relative prey size plays a key role in shaping the raptorial talon. We found that raptor talon evolution has been strongly influenced by relative prey size, but not allometry (body mass) and, that talon shape and mechanical performance are good indicators of feeding ecology.
Tsang LR, Sansalone G, Wilson LAB, Attard MRG, Ledogar J and Wroe S (2019). Raptor talon shape and biomechanical performance are controlled by relative prey size but not by allometry. Scientific Reports. 9: 7076. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-43654-0