• Strategy

Retractable claws have many functions: African lion

This record is currently "In Discussion" because of some question about it's relevance to AskNature and/or biomimicry. We encourage you to participate in this discussion on the "Comments" tab.


Pride of lions / Rick marin (.. / LicensePD - Public Domain

The claws cats provide versatility for a variety of functions, such as gripping or running, because they are retractable.

"The paws of a lion resemble those of most of the cat family. Cats and dogs walk in what is called the digitigrade position: the heel and instep are raised off the ground, making locomotion quieter and more versatile. The large pads on the ball of the foot and on the toes provide a cushion when walking and also help silence the feet. The lion has retractile claws -- it can retract them while at rest or when walking, so that they do not catch in the ground and reduce his speed." (Foy and Oxford Scientific Films 1982:177)
About the inspiring organism
Med_3335018220_cd5ae56252_b Lion
Panthera leo (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common name: African lion

Habitat(s): Desert, Forest, Grassland, Savanna, Shrubland
Learn more at EOL.org
Some organism data provided by: ITIS: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Threat Categories LONG_VU IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Tires or vehicles that function well on various terrains, safety devices for equipment that functions at various speeds, retractable awnings, retractable needles or internal medical equipment.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Transportation, safety, manufacturing, building, medical

Foy, Sally; Oxford Scientific Films. 1982. The Grand Design: Form and Colour in Animals. Lingfield, Surrey, U.K.: BLA Publishing Limited for J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd, Aldine House, London. 238 p.
Learn More at Google Scholar Google Scholar  


Login to Post a Comment.
about 1 year ago
Dear Ivy White,

Thank you for this comment. We are reviewing this strategy to ensure accuracy. Thank you for calling this to our attention!

about 1 year ago
Cats do NOT have "retractable claws". This would imply that their claws are extended at all times and that they can withdraw them at will. This is not the case. Cats have Protractile claws. This means that when the muscles are relaxed, the claws are pulled back into the sheath and only come out when the cat wants them to come out and exercises the proper muscles to make this happen. To retract is to actively pull back when in fact, it is the passive relaxation of the muscles which causes the claws to be sheathed. There are some large cats whose claws are extended like a dogs all of the time, One of these is the Cheetah, primarily as the cheetah lacks a sheath.
over 3 years ago
Each paw is equipped with soft pads to make it's movements quiet. Like most carnivores, lions are digitigrade walkers. This means they essentially walk on their toes. But, the majority of the animal's weight is borne by the main paw pads, which would correspond on a human to the palm of the hand at the base of the fingers. Extra bones in the toe joints give the toes a wide range of motion.The claws are retractible and very sharp. The retractable feature helps keep the claws sharp, and prevents injury during play, etc. The dewclaw on the front limbs is often used as a toothpick. The claws grow as a series of layers. As a layer wears, it is shed, and a new sharp-pointed claw is exposed. The claw on a large lion can be 1 1/2 inches (38 mm) or more from base to tip along the curve.

1 to 3 of 3 Comments