You’d think something with as much awesome power as the talons on birds of prey would be among the better-understood appendages in the animal kingdom. Not so, say the authors of a new in PLoS One, but they’ve rectified the situation by analyzing 24 different birds to reveal the evolution and use of talons by the owl, osprey, falcon, and more.
They describe how accipitrids, which include hawks and eagles, have two giant talons on their first and second toes [as in pictures A and B]. These give them a secure grip on struggling game that they like to eat alive, “so long as it does not protest too vigorously. In this prolonged and bloody scenario, prey eventually succumb to massive blood loss or organ failure, incurred during dismemberment” [Wired.com].