|Largetooth sawfish, Pristis pristis (above),|
Green sawfish, Pristis zijsron (below)
Sawfish, also known as carpenter sharks, are a family of rays characterized by a long, narrow, flattened rostrum, or nose extension, lined with sharp transverse teeth, arranged in a way that resembles a saw. They are among the largest fish with some species reaching lengths of about 7–7.6 m (23–25 ft). They are found worldwide in tropical and subtropical regions in coastal marine and brackish estuarine waters, as well as freshwater rivers and lakes. All species are endangered.
They should not be confused with sawsharks (order Pristiophoriformes) or the extinct sclerorhynchoids (order Rajiformes) which have a similar appearance, or swordfish (family Xiphiidae) which have a similar name but a very different appearance.
Sawfishes are relatively slow breeders and the females give birth to live young. They feed on fish and invertebrates that are detected and captured with the use of their saw. They are generally harmless to humans, but can inflict serious injuries with the saw when captured and defending themselves.
Once common, sawfish have experienced a drastic decline in recent decades, and the only remaining strongholds are in Northern Australia and Florida, United States. The five species are rated as Endangered or Critically Endangered by the IUCN. They are hunted for their fins (shark fin soup), use of parts as traditional medicine, their teeth and saw. They also face habitat loss. Sawfish have been listed by CITES since 2007, restricting international trade in them and their parts. They are protected in Australia, the United States and several other countries, meaning that sawfish caught by accident have to be released and violations can be punished with hefty fines.
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