Temporal range:
Largetooth sawfish, Pristis pristis (above),
Green sawfish, Pristis zijsron (below)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Superorder: Batoidea
Order: Rhinopristiformes
Family: Pristidae
Bonaparte, 1838

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).[2] 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.[3]

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.[1][4]

Sawfishes are relatively slow breeders and the females give birth to live young.[2] They feed on fish and invertebrates that are detected and captured with the use of their saw.[5] They are generally harmless to humans, but can inflict serious injuries with the saw when captured and defending themselves.[6]

Sawfish have been known and hunted for thousands of years,[7] and play an important mythological and spiritual role in many societies around the world.[8]

Once common, sawfish have experienced a drastic decline in recent decades, and the only remaining strongholds are in Northern Australia and Florida, United States.[4][9] The five species are rated as Endangered or Critically Endangered by the IUCN.[10] They are hunted for their fins (shark fin soup), use of parts as traditional medicine, their teeth and saw. They also face habitat loss.[4] Sawfish have been listed by CITES since 2007, restricting international trade in them and their parts.[11][12] 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.[13][14]

  1. ^ a b Wueringer, B.E.; L. Squire Jr.; S.P. Collin (2009). "The biology of extinct and extant sawfish (Batoidea: Sclerorhynchidae and Pristidae)". Review in Fish Biology and Fisheries. 19 (4): 445–464. doi:10.1007/s11160-009-9112-7. S2CID 3352391.
  2. ^ a b Last; White; de Carvalho; Séret; Stehmann; Naylor (2016). Rays of the World. CSIRO. pp. 57–66. ISBN 9780643109148.
  3. ^ Dulvy; Davidson; Kyne; Simpfendorfer; Harrison; Carlson; Fordham (2014). "Ghosts of the coast: Global extinction risk and conservation of sawfishes" (PDF). Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 26 (1): 134–153. doi:10.1002/aqc.2525.
  4. ^ a b c Harrison, L.R.; N.K. Dulvy, eds. (2014). Sawfish: A Global Strategy for Conservation (PDF). IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Shark Specialist Group. ISBN 978-0-9561063-3-9.
  5. ^ Wueringer, B. "How sawfish use their saw". Sawfish Conservation Society. Archived from the original on 30 November 2017. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  6. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2017). "Pristidae" in FishBase. November 2017 version.
  7. ^ Moore, A.L.B. (2015). "A review of sawfishes (Pristidae) in the Arabian region: diversity, distribution, and functional extinction of large and historically abundant marine vertebrates". Aquatic Conservation. 25 (5): 656–677. doi:10.1002/aqc.2441.
  8. ^ "Cultural Importance of Sawfish". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  9. ^ Platt, J.R. (2 July 2013). "Last Chance for Sawfish?". Scientific American. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  10. ^ "Pristidae". IUCN Red List. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  11. ^ Black, Richard (June 11, 2007). "Sawfish protection acquires teeth". BBC News.
  12. ^ "Appendices I, II and III". CITES. 4 October 2017. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  13. ^ Slezak, M. (3 August 2016). "Queensland fisherman caught selling bills of endangered sawfish". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  14. ^ "Why Report Sawfish Encounters?". University of Florida. 2017-05-16. Retrieved 17 November 2017.

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