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Large-tooth Sawfish (Pristis perotteti)

Large-tooth Sawfish (Pristis perotteti)

All text on this page is copyright protected: © 2014 Kelvin Aitken.
All rights reserved. Students may use this information for personal research only. Not for commercial use.

Order: Pristiformes
Family: Pristidae
Genus: Pristis
Species: perotteti
Taxonomic name: Pristis perotteti
Other Common Names: Southern Sawfish.

The sawfish family has five members in Australian waters, all found in northern tropical areas in salt- or freshwater environments. All have a distinctive elongated snout which has an almost constant width right up to the rounded tip and a row of similar-sized ‘teeth’ along each edge.

The smallest species, the Dwarf Sawfish, grows to 1.5 m or more, which is about the size of the largest sawshark. The Wide Sawfish is reputed to grow to 7.6 m, one of the biggest fish in the sea, but most sawfish would be found in the 2–5 m range with the young beginning life at about 50–60 cm long, including their ‘saw’.

Four of the five species — the Green, Wide, Dwarf and Narrow Sawfish — occur in shallow coastal areas where they are usually caught in gill nets or offshore by prawn trawlers. The Freshwater Sawfish has only been reliably recorded from the upper reaches of estuaries, freshwater rivers and waterholes. At times it has been found up to 100 km from the coast or in waterholes that have been isolated from rivers for a number of years due to low annual floods.

The long ‘saw’, studded with teeth, is a formidable weapon used in hunting and defence. The saw is used to slash at prey or to uproot bottom-dwelling fish and it can be dangerous to humans that startle or capture a large specimen. Like the embryonic sawshark, a young sawfish prior to birth has this formidable weapon sheathed in a protective membrane and the usually rigid saw is soft and pliable.

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