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Quick Facts

Genus: Pristidae Pristis

Location: Tropical and subtropical waters – generally freshwater early in life, saltwater later in life – all over the world.

The Scoop

The Scoop:

Lumberjack of the sea

It’s quite possibly the most appropriately named fish you ever saw.

The sawfish looks exactly like it sounds, with a long rostrum at the front of its body. Combined with the long, sharp teeth on both sides of this rostrum, this fish looks like it could be a lumberjack sporting a mighty saw.

You won’t find this fish in the forest chopping down trees, however. The sawfish, fairly common in shallow tropical and subtropical seas around the world, slashes its appendage in a side-to-side motion to dislodge crustaceans from the ocean bottom and stun nearby small fish. They then bite, chew and swallow their prey with traditional teeth and a mouth on the underside of their head.

Despite the intimidating rostrum, sawfish avoid larger fish and animals and are not considered a threat to humans. However, when in danger they can be quite effective in using their rostrum to fend off predators such as sharks.

The sawfish often is mistaken for a shark because of its dorsal fins and swimming motion, but it is classified as a ray. They did evolve from prehistoric sharks.

Quick Facts:

  • A sawfish can have as little as 14 but as many as 37 teeth on each side of its rostrum.
  • Sawfish often have a different number of teeth on each side of the rostrum, but the difference between sides rarely is more than three.
  • Like other rays, sawfish are white or near-white on their bellies. The tops of their bodies can be a variety of colors, however, ranging from brown, grey, green or even yellowish. Some are so dark that they nearly are black.

Other facts:

  • Teeth on the rostrum vary in size and shape, but generally become longer farther away from the body.
  • A sawfish is not a shark, but sometimes they are called carpenter sharks because of their long rostrum.
  • Sawfish can be confused with sawsharks because their bodies are similar. However, sawfish generally live in shallow water while sawsharks prefer much deeper ocean water.

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