We’ve decided to talk about these… unique… animals.
In the United States, we have two of the five sawfish species: the Smalltooth and Largetooth Sawfish. They both look like… well, like they got bored and attached chainsaws at the end of their faces. Because that’s a fun thing to do.
They “chainsaw” looking teeth don’t cut through wood, though, instead helping the sawfish locate and eventually kill their prey (mostly fish, sometimes crustaceans). Each side of their rostrum has around 20-30 teeth per each side, with males having broader teeth.
Sawfish, like sharks, skates and rays, are elasmobranchs (skeleton made of cartilage, like your ears and nose). Sawfish are actually rays, that look like sharks, with their gills are on the ventral side (their stomach side). They have white underbellies and are brown to olive-green in color on top. You can learn more about basic sawfish anatomy here, provided by the FLMNH.
While both the smalltooth and largetooth sawfish look alike and can be mistaken by the untrained eye, there exist a few differences that one should take note of. First, while both are endangered, smalltooth sawfish are still being caught while largetooth sawfish was last identified in Texas back in 1961. In fact, in Florida waters, the last time someone confirmed a largetooth sawfish was 1941! This is why scientists consider the animal "regionally extinct;" the IUCN has assessed them as Critically Endangered (CR).
The smalltooth sawfish aren’t doing much better (also Critically Endangered). Some places haven’t seen these animals since the early 1900’s, but a few have been spotted along the Florida coast and the Bahamas. They are usually in the southern area of Florida, near the Everglades, as shown on the map to the left.
Sawfish are still susceptible to things like bycatch, their rostrum getting easily entangled in any fishing gear. They are also suffering from loss of habitat, like many animals nowadays. However, there is some good news! They’re been protected in Florida since 1992, and protected under the US Endangered Species Act in 2003; they are under a protection program of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
Little is known about these funny looking fish, so scientists are trying to learn more about them through a research program. This research program is asking for the help of the public, through a statewide survey.
to report a sawfish sighting:
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
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