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    SLICE & DICE 

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       What do panther claws & human nails have in common? 

       They are both made of a substance called Keratin.

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CLAWS 

  

Panther Claws are impressive; truly an Arc of triumph.

 

The claws of a panther are sizable, curved, & sharp. They can ware, split or break, & they have an outer layer that sheds. Claws evolved to penetrate the skin & hook flesh, to grip, scratch, & tare.

 

There is a claw on each toe, including the 5th toe on the front paw called the Dewclaw. Unlike most canines, felines have retained the function of this claw which is applied when gripping prey.

  

It is well known that cat claws, with the exception of the cheetah, are retractable. The paw houses an array of muscle, tendons, ligaments & bone; all are used in the operation of the claws extension & retraction. The panthers stealth is aided by its ability to retract its claws, allowing the paws to be placed silently on the earth.

  

The paws contain bones called the phalanges; they are like the bones of our fingers & toes, there are 3 bones in each digit. The claw actually extends out of the third bone on the very end of the toe, which forms a protective sheath for the claw; the claw is attached to the bone by a ligament.

  

To retract the claw, the 3rd bone is rotated, pulled back, and sits along side the 2nd bone. The claw does not completely retract into the sheath, and the sharp edge of the claw can sometimes be seen protruding from the fur surrounding the tip of the toe.

 

Claws are marvelous tools: used in the process of catching prey, for scratching an itch, marking territory, deployed when climbing, & as weapons.

 

There have been two reasons proposed as to why panthers scratch on trees & fallen logs: One theory is this is how they sharpen their claws, the second theory, is they do it to blunt the end of the nail & remove the outer layer or sheath. A Claw that is not worn down may get caught, causing a ripped claw, or if overgrown begin cutting into the pad. I suspect the overgrown claw is more of a risk with dogs nails or bird talons.

  

Raking on the trees with the front claws, & scrapes made on the ground by the back claws, is a way for the panther to leave scent trails & visual markers, to communicate to other panthers & define its home range.  

 

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