A claw is a curved, pointed appendage, found at the end of a toe or finger in most amniotes (mammals, reptiles, birds).

Some invertebrates such as beetles and spiders have somewhat similar fine hooked structures at the end of the leg or tarsus for gripping a surface as the creature walks. Crabs', lobsters' and scorpions' pincers, or more formally, their chelae, are sometimes called claws.

A true claw is made of hard protein called keratin. Claws are used to catch and hold prey in carnivorous mammals such as cats and dogs, but may also be used for such purposes as digging, climbing trees, self-defense, and grooming, in those and other species.

Similar appendages that are flat and do not come to a sharp point are called nails instead. Claw-like projections that do not form at the end of digits, but spring from other parts of the foot are properly named spurs.

In tetrapods, claws are made of keratin and consist of two layers. The unguis is the harder external layer, which consists of keratin fibers arranged perpendicular to the direction of growth and in layers at an oblique angle. The subunguis is the softer, flaky underside layer whose grain is parallel to the direction of growth. The claw grows outward from the nail matrix at the base of the unguis and the subunguis grows thicker while travelling across the nail bed. The unguis grows outward faster than the subunguis to produce a curve and the thinner sides of the claw wear away faster than their thicker middle, producing a more or less sharp point. Tetrapods use their claws in many ways, commonly to grasp or kill prey, to dig and to climb and hang.

All Carnivora have claws, which vary considerably in length and shape. Claws grow out of the third phalanges of the paws and are made of keratin. Many predatory mammals have protractile claws that can partially hide inside the animal's paw, especially the cat family, Felidae, almost all of which members have fully protractible claws. Outside of the cat family, retractable claws are found only in certain species of the Viverridae (and the extinct Nimravidae). A claw that is retractable is protected from wear and tear.

This page was last edited on 11 March 2018, at 16:40.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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