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The Modern Terrible Claw by EWilloughby The Modern Terrible Claw by EWilloughby
And another for the "ha! Feathered dinosaurs aren't scary, you say?" sentiment that has been particularly salient lately with the release of some new film or other.

The golden eagle, Aquila chrysaetos, is bar-none one of the most magnificent of all birds. Its huge size and fierce habits have made it especially well-known among birds of prey, and its ubiquity across the world has made it an icon of hypercarnivorous success. With a nearly 8-foot wingspan and extraordinarily strong grasping feet, the golden eagle's predatory power is arguably unmatched by any extant bird.

As a paleoartist specializing in deinonychosaurs, its foot is of particular interest to me. Like all eagles and most accipitrids writ large, the second pedal ungual is hypertrophied, and this represents a fascinating point of convergence with the same hypertrophy in extinct dromaeosaurs. This similarity, combined with the short, stout, and remarkably robust metartarsus, has led to the inception of one of my favorite papers in modern paleontology, and to fascinating conclusions about predatory behavior in dromaeosaurs. To quote the paper in question, by the inimitable Denver Fowler and colleagues: 

"It is important for extant predators to quickly subdue their victims, lest they escape or retaliate against their attacker. ... To prevent escape of large prey the raptor pins its victim to the ground using its bodyweight, then plucks away feathers or fur, exposing an area of flesh. For immobilisation, falcons will quickly attempt to snap the spinal cord to kill the prey, but accipitrids lack the physical specializations for this. Instead, accipitrids possess hypertrophied talons on D-I and D-II which are adaptations for maintaining grip on large struggling prey. Accipitrids’ talons lock into their prey, keeping hold despite vigorous struggling, allowing the raptor to begin feeding. In such cases, death of the victim is hastened by massive bleeding from wounds sustained whilst being eaten alive.

An understanding of how foot morphology affects predatory ability in extant birds of prey can inform interpretations of similar variation observed in extinct non-avian theropods. ... We suggest the enlarged D-II claws of deinonychosaurians were used to grapple prey in a fashion comparable to accipitrid birds of prey, and are part of a suite of features that indicate ecological separation within Deinonychosauria and Paraves."


The golden eagle is referenced specifically for some of its unusually ghastly predatory strategies:

"Published accounts of this rare (indeed, disputed) behaviour are anecdotal, but the process by which golden eagles kill large prey is of interest. In most accounts, eagles form a tight fist with their feet, and stoop their prey, striking it at speed. Clearly, this behaviour is not possible for non-volant deinonychosaurians. However, rarer accounts record eagles ‘‘prey-riding’’; embedding their talons deep into the backs of their much larger prey and holding on as the victim’s vigorous retaliations serve only to widen the wounds. Prey-riding can be considered as an extension of the typical accipitrid predatory strategy for dealing with large prey, except that here the victim is too large to be pinned down by the raptor’s bodyweight. In order to prevent escape the raptor merely holds on with its hypertrophied talons. Some anecdotal sources suggest that piercing of internal organs by talons hastens the death of the victim. Experiment and observation has shown this to be unlikely. Instead, the victim is probably immobilized by weakening through exhaustion and/or loss of blood."


Jurassic World's overgrown scaly lizards have nothing on this magnificent bastard.
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:iconhyppthe:
HYPPthe Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2018
This is stunningly beautiful! I just love all the fine details and realism!
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2016
Apparently these things can kill cattle!!
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:iconsilkenwinds:
SilkenWinds Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
Just gorgeous!!
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:iconholeinthesky88:
HoleInTheSky88 Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Feathers don't make dromaeosaurs less terrifying. In fact, it does the opposite. Majestic creatures both past and present.
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:iconhublerdon:
HUBLERDON Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Ewilloughby,

Im making a stop-mo film involving velociraptors. I want my critter to be as accurate as possible. So, I got some questions on raptors:

1. Does the wing connect to the middle finger, or bottom finger?
2. Are the middle and bottom finger connected? I saw this on an anatomy sketch, I was wondering if it was true.
3. Aside from restraining its prey with the sickle claw, could it also kick its prey to puncture them, like a cassowary?
I hope you answer my questions. Thanks.
Kelston Hubler
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:iconmile-high-guy:
Mile-High-Guy Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2015
1. The wing connects to the middle finger

2. The middle and bottom finger are fused together in birds, but not dromeaosaurs.

3. I'd say it's plausible.

I'm no paleontologist. Anyone who knows more feel free to correct me.
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:iconhublerdon:
HUBLERDON Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Should the head have plumage, or be featherless, like a vulture?
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:iconmile-high-guy:
Mile-High-Guy Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2015
I would refer to the EWilloughby's drawings and have a mostly feathered head
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:icontheriosuchian:
Theriosuchian Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2015
Utterly beautiful animal and great rendition :)
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:iconjd-man:
JD-man Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2015
Many thanks for uploading this to DA. We can never have to many reminders of the Golden eagle's awesomeness. Off the top of my head, there's also the "Eagles" episode of "David Attenborough Wildlife Specials" ( www.amazon.com/David-Attenboro… ), Naish's "When eagles go bad" ( scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoolo… ), Babbletrish's "Another PSA Addendum" ( babbletrish.deviantart.com/art… ), & "Zaboomafoo uncensored 2" ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVjhA-… ).
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:iconorange-eyed-serpent:
orange-eyed-serpent Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I've always liked golden eagles for those reasons, too. I'd like to see you illustrate the possible deinonychosauran "prey riding" behavior sometime, that would be very interesting. :D This illustration is very beautiful too. You do such a great job on the texture and shine of the feathers.
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:icontoothless20:
Toothless20 Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is amazing :)
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:iconx-streamchaos:
X-StreamChaos Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Amazing!
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:icondinu1999:
dinu1999 Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It looks amazing, and I 100% agree with you about the JW lizards.
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:iconaowna:
Aowna Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
amazing drawing! 
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:iconhellraptorstudios:
HellraptorStudios Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Very royal looking. I must ask, what modern dinosaur is your favourite one ?
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:iconplastospleen:
PLASTOSPLEEN Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2015
You just made the genus Aquila so much better. :)
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:iconheytomemeimhome:
Heytomemeimhome Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015
Goodness these things are terrifying, I believe I would feel safer working with the Tyrannosaur then with an eagle large enough to kill me.

 With the tyrannosaur, (hypothetical of course) there's a decent chance of you being able to can find them, and blaster brains out if the situation requires it, however with the giant eagle… You will most likely not get such a chance… shivers.
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:iconoaglor:
Oaglor Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I like them because they are used in Central Asia to hunt canids. Bite me, wolfaboos.
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:iconlexlothor:
LEXLOTHOR Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
Last year I witnessed a golden eagle pounce a prairie dog in Wyoming. It flew off with its prey only a few meters away from my car. Unfortunately I was driving and could not take a photo of this event.
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015
There is a reason dromaeosaurs had feathered wings and it was to better kill things with.
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:iconcryptid-keeper:
Cryptid-Keeper Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015
Wow this is amazing!!!!! :happybounce: 
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:iconsin-and-love:
sin-and-love Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015
So gives a literal falcon punch?
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:icontarturus:
Tarturus Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Eagles are indeed magnificent creatures.

And yeah, I've never understood the whole "feathers make something less scary" mentality. Especially seeing as no one seems to hold these same views on fur. For example, I've never heard anyone claim grizzly bears are made less scary by all their fur.
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:iconthemorlock:
TheMorlock Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015  Student General Artist
Preach it! I read that a pair of goldies can kill a cow! Interesting to note that modern raptors, while not pack-hunters, per-se, WILL hunt cooperatively if the situation calls for it. And of course, Harris hawks do regularly operate as an organized pack. 
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:iconelsqiubbonator:
ElSqiubbonator Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015
Just to clear some things up, are there any valid accounts of golden eagles attacking/preying on humans in the manner you described? I know that African crowned eagles have been known to see humans as prey on occasion, but I was wondering about golden eagles since they are also known for attacking large mammals.
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015
No. It seems only crowned eagles (and possibly Haast's eagles) put people on their diet.
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:iconindigomagpie:
indigomagpie Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015
-Any animal prepared to attack 200kg moas is probably willing to attack 50kg humans
-We have extensive oral traditions about Haast's eagle eating people (of course, thousand-year-old oral traditions aren't terribly reliable)
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015
Which is why I think H/A. moorei is a likely man-eater.
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:iconelsqiubbonator:
ElSqiubbonator Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015
I guess that makes sense. Crowned Eagles are specialized to hunt primates, and they're the among the only extant raptors that regularly kill prey larger than themselves. Haast's Eagle was the apex predator of an ecosystem with large, defenseless herbivores and no mammalian predators, so it could afford to kill giant moas.

PS--when I was a year old, my father befriended a raptor rehabilitator in Namibia who showed us his birds. One of them was a Verreaux's Eagle, which followed and watched us as we walked alongside its aviary.
Today, I have no doubt that, if it hadn't been in a cage, that bird could have killed me.
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2015
Verreaux's eagles certainly have the power to do it, but they eat almost nothing but rock hyrax.
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:iconmeemilee:
MeEmilee Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Great work, and I loved all the info in the description; really interesting!
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:iconanonymousllama428:
AnonymousLlama428 Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Beautiful as always.:) (Smile) 
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:iconmidiaou:
Midiaou Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
This is amazing! And I totally agree with you on the JW point.
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:iconpeteridish:
PeteriDish Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I agree with that last sentence every little bit! movie dinosaurs never got nothing on the real ones and probably never will.
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:iconcelestial-rainstorm:
Celestial-Rainstorm Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Amazing, I just love how intense she is! 
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:iconxiphactinus:
Xiphactinus Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Wow! So awesome depiction of this modern theropod!
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