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To see photographs of the Longnose Sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus) click here.

Longnose Sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus)

Longnose Sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus)

All text on this page is copyright protected: © 2002 Kelvin Aitken.
All rights reserved. Students may use this information for personal research only. Not for commercial use.

Order: Pristiophoriformes
Family: Pristiophoridae
Genus: Pristiophorus
Species: cirratus
Taxonomic name (of species shown above): Pristiophorus cirratus

The most obvious feature of the sawsharks are their elongated blade-like snouts studded with teeth of various sizes. These unusual creatures, ranging from 80-140 cm, are rarely seen by divers but they are sometimes caught in gill nets set off beaches and taken seasonally by commercial trawlers. They are sold as ‘Red Dog’ in some areas or they become part of that vaguely described product known as flake.

Ranging from the shallows of the southern coast to 300–400 m deep on the continental shelf off Queensland, t here are four species of sawshark in Australian waters. The Southern Sawshark enters shallow bays and estuaries in Tasmania and inhabits the southern coast, from the Victorian to the Western Australian border. The Longnose Sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus) or Common Sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus) is found only in Eastern Australia.

Sawsharks are easily confused with sawfish, which also have an elongated snout with teeth-like spikes and a similar body shape. There are two obvious differences: first are the tendrils on the snout of sawsharks which are missing on sawfish; secondly sawsharks have gills on the sides of their heads like most sharks, while the sawfish, being types of rays, have their gills underneath their heads.

The sawsharks’ tendrils, which are found about halfway along the length of their snout or ‘saw’, are used to dislodge hidden prey in sandy or silty areas or to slash at passing fish. To prevent damage to the mother, sawsharks have their replaceable saw teeth folded back until they are born.

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