By Ella Davies Reporter, BBC Nature
Falcons rapidly evolved their renowned hunting skills, a study has found.
Scientists from Cardiff University have sequenced the genome of peregrine and saker falcons for the first time.
Research revealed that compared with other species, these birds of prey have been subjected to fierce competition and pressures, leading them to adapt quickly in order to survive.
Investigation of the genes responsible for the birds' unique beaks highlighted this rapid development.
The name falcon comes from the Latin word falco, meaning hook shaped and refers to the birds' strongly curved beaks.
"We have been able to determine that specific genes, regulating beak development, have had to evolve to withstand the pressure of impacting their prey at a speed of up to 300 kilometres an hour," explained Professor Mike Bruford, who authored the paper published in the journal Nature Genetics.
"The shape of the falcon beak has also had had to evolve to be capable of tearing at the flesh of its prey."