Raptor talon shape and biomechanical performance are controlled by relative prey size but not by allometry.


Journal Article

Most birds of prey (raptors), rely heavily on their talons for capturing prey. However, the relationship between talon shape and the ability to take prey is poorly understood. In this study we investigate whether raptor talons have evolved primarily in response to adaptive pressures exerted by different dietary demands, or if talon morphology is largely constrained by allometric or phylogenetic factors. We focus on the hallux talon and include 21 species in total varying greatly 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. Species that hunt larger prey are characterised by both distinct talon shape and mechanical performance when compared to species that predate smaller prey, even when accounting for phylogeny. In contrast to previous results of skull-based analysis, allometry had no significant effect. In conclusion, we found that raptor talon evolution has been strongly influenced by relative prey size, but not allometry and, that talon shape and mechanical performance are good indicators of feeding ecology.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Tsang, LR; Wilson, LAB; Ledogar, J; Wroe, S; Attard, M; Sansalone, G

Published Date

  • May 8, 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 9 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 7076 -

PubMed ID

  • 31068662

Pubmed Central ID

  • 31068662

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2045-2322

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2045-2322

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/s41598-019-43654-0


  • eng