Sawfish, also known as carpenter sharks, are of the rays family and characterized by a long, narrow, flattened rostrum, or nose extension, lined with sharp transverse teeth, arranged to resemble a saw.
5 Interesting Facts About Sawfish
#1 Sawfish do not have normal bones
- The sawfish skeleton is made of cartilage.
#2 Rows of Teeth are Modified Scales
- The sawfish’s most distinctive feature is the saw-like rostrum, covered with electrosensitive pores that allow the sawfish to detect slight movements of prey hiding in the muddy seafloor. The rostrum also serves as a digging tool to unearth buried crustaceans. Should suitable prey try to swim past it, the usually lethargic sawfish springs from the bottom and slashes at it with its saw, which generally stuns or impales the prey sufficiently for the sawfish to devour it. Sawfish also defends themselves with their rostrum against intruding divers and predators such as sharks. The “teeth” protruding from the rostrum are not real teeth, but modified tooth-like structures called denticles.
#3 Grow up to 20 feet long, known to grow over 25 feet
- The smallest sawfish is the dwarf sawfish (P. clavata), which grows to 1.4 m (4.6 ft), much smaller than the others. The largest species seem to be the large-tooth sawfish (P. microdon), the Leichhardt’s sawfish (P. perotteti), and the common sawfish (P. pristis), which can all reach about 7 m (23 ft) in length.
#4 Sawfish are ovoviviparous
- Instead of laying eggs, the eggs stay inside of the body, hatch inside, and are born live. The live pups are born with rostral blades that are soft and flexible during embryonic development, with teeth that are enclosed by a sheath – to protect the mother during the birthing process – which eventually disintegrates and falls off.
#5 Population declining, 95% wiped out
- Sawfish is listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered by the IUCN, and face the threat of extinction as a result of habitat loss and overfishing. Global populations of every species of sawfish are estimated to have fallen to less than 10% of their historic levels. International commerce of sawfishes has been banned globally since 2007, with the only exception being for the provision of live Pristis microdon to appropriate public aquaria for primarily conservation purposes.
More Weird Things About Sawfish
- The body and head of the sawfish are flat, and they spend most of their time lying on the seafloor. The sawfish’s mouth and nostrils are on its flat underside. The mouth is lined with small, dome-shaped teeth for eating small fish and crustaceans. Sawfish breathe with two spiracles just behind the eyes that draw water to the gills.
- The eyes of the sawfish are underdeveloped due to their muddy habitats. The rostrum is the primary sensory device.
- Their small intestines contain an internal partition shaped like a corkscrew, called a spiral valve, which increases the surface area available for food absorption.
- One southern sawfish was recorded as weighing 2,455 kg (5,412 lb). Such massive specimens that survive long enough to approach their maximum size and age are believed to have lifespans of about 51 years.
Distribution and habitat
- Sawfishes are marine and move between freshwater and saltwater, brackish water.
- Species and are widely distributed in the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific.
- Juveniles are common in very shallow waters, but adults can be found at depths of 40 m (130 ft) or more.
- Sawfishes are nocturnal, usually sleeping during the day and hunting at night.
- They do not attack people unless provoked or surprised.
- The sawfish is known to mate once every two years, with an average litter of around eight.
- It is estimated that the larger species do not reach sexual maturity until they are 3.5 to 4 m (11 to 13 ft) long and 10 to 12 years old.
Featured Image Credit: Rob Griffith / AP
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12 thoughts on “5 Weird Things About Sawfish, Sawfish Images and Video”
This was very interesting. I’ve always thought that sawfish look like a fake fish! I didn’t know hardly any of what you shared above, including the “denticles” ~ I like these kinds of articles! Thanks!
This is so fascinating and informative! I love learning about all the creatures in the ocean. It boggles to my mind to imagine what is out there and love the mystery of it!
This was fascinating, although I already knew that a shark’s ‘bones’ are actually just only cartilage. I would love to know more about other endangered species.
Thank you very much for sharing and posting this. My eight yr old loves sharks and always watches them on TV. I find it remarkable that they have a life span of 51 yrs.This is my favorite shark but you really have to see them at the aquarium to see how massive they are and appreciate them like we did. Thank for the facts,boys and I had fun reading it together.
Thank you for sharing this facts about them. I’ve seen one or two via the aquariums we’ve visited and I always think to myself, this is one fish I don’t want to encounter ever. Little did I know that they do not attack (unless you surprise them, why would you anyway?!). It’s just the saw portion of its body creates fear immediately.
Very interesting article. I just finished reading Kon-Tiki and they saw lots of different fishes on their journey.
SAW THESE FISH AT THE NEW AQUARIUM IN CANADA! THEY LOOK FUNNY ON THE BOTTOM!
I like reading about animals especially the ones i have never had in dept knowledge. i dint know most of the things like their population is declining up to 95% are wiped out which is so huge. that really shows to what extent we r preserving our water animals.
How odd that they hatch inside the body. I hope I never meet a shark in the ocean.
I didn’t know all of these facts about sawfish. In general I like information about fish in fresh water that are normally in salt water. I really like watching River Monsters. I like information about moths and butterflies also.
My 6-year-old is gonna go nuts when I show him this post! He’s recently taken an interest in sharks and predatory fish, he’ll have these 5 weird facts memorized in no time!
I think the modified scales is so unique and how they can use it to stir up food. That is pretty awesome. Thanks for sharing.