The sawfish and saw shark (Pristiophorus Cirratus) often get confused, but are completely different animals (crazy how often that happens, eh?).
Lets look at it anatomically first. Saw sharks can reach up to 1.3 m (4.4 ft), with females sometimes reaching up to 1.5 m (5 ft). Similar in coloration, these animals are a pale yellow/brown on the top with a white underbelly. Sometimes, on the saw shark, there are blotches or bands of darker color. Both the sawfish and saw shark have that chain-saw looking snout, however, SAW SHARKS HAVE BARBELS. Sawfish do not have these and are the most recognizable difference between these two similar sharks.
Another difference is habitat. While the sawfish has a small area where it has been found, the saw shark has nine different species (although debated by some that it only has eight), found worldwide: Western Atlantic, Japan, Australia and South Africa. They usually inhabit temperate waters of coastal areas, found at depths below 40 m (130 ft), but have been known to frequent shallower bays and estuaries.
Unlike many sharks, the saw shark is known to forms schools; it has been hypothesized this is for hunting for food. Their known diet consists of small fish, crustaceans, squid, their large snouts helping them dig in the sand for prey hiding in the sand. Their ampullae of Lorenzini, as well as the barbels, help detect prey.
*The red-colored species names means these animals have been included on the IUCN's Red List of Endangered Species.
For reproduction, all species are ovoviviparous, giving birth bi-annually in the winter to 7-17 pups in each litter. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Do those teeth hurt the mother as she gives birth? I mean, they're essentially giving birth to animal chainsaws." Have no fear! The pups have the teeth folded against the snout, so no harm comes to the mother. The pups are born with their teeth folded against their snout which protects the mother from harm. In comparison to most sharks, they mature quit quickly, and only live about 15 years.
Sometimes caught as bycatch, these animals are often taken for their meat, as some say it is positively delicious (yum, mercury). The number of saw sharks has declined due to commercial fishing, but not all have been assessed by the IUCN.
differences between sawfish vs sawshark
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
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