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Saw Fish

Saw Fish



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Published by draculavanhelsing
Sawfish (Family Pristidae)
The unusual-looking sawfish family are a type of ray and are therefore related to sharks. Found in both marine and fresh water, these predatory fish derive their name from their long snouts lined with sharp points.
Sawfish (Family Pristidae)
The unusual-looking sawfish family are a type of ray and are therefore related to sharks. Found in both marine and fresh water, these predatory fish derive their name from their long snouts lined with sharp points.

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: draculavanhelsing on Aug 03, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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– Flattened, suited to spending time on thebottoms o rivers, estuaries and the ocean.
– Resembles the sandpaper-like skin o sharks. Covered with very small, tooth-like scalescalled denticles.
– Not to be mistaken or ears, these areopenings behind and slightly up rom the eyes.Used or taking in water while lying on the riverbedor seabed.
– Long snout resembling a saw, with‘teeth’ made o modied scales. The numbero pairs o teeth varies between species andindividuals, ranging rom 18 to 28 pairs. Therostrum itsel is made o cartilage sheathed in skin.
Caudal n
– The powerul caudal or tail n is usedor orward motion.
Pectoral, pelvic and dorsal ns
– Sawsh havetwo prominent dorsal ns on their backs thatare used with pectoral ns or stability. Twospecies can be distinguished by n position.The rst dorsal n o the reshwater sawshstarts in ront o the pelvic ns while the samen in dwar and narrow sawsh starts abovethe pelvic ns or slightly behind them.
– Positioned at the top o their heads,so that sawsh can see even when theyare partly buried in mud.
(also called nares) – Like otherrays, the mouths, nostrils and gill slitsare on the underneath, or ventral side,o their bodies.
– Sawsh have thousands o small, dome-shaped teeth used oreating small sh and crustaceans.
Illustration © R.Swainston/www.anima.net.au
Sawfsh anatomy 
Caudal(tail) nSecond dorsal nFirst dorsal nPelvic nSpiracleEyeRostrum(snout)Pectoral n
   F  A  C  T  S  H  E  E  T  7
 JULY 2008
Photo © Commomwealth o Australia/Julie Jones
The unusual-looking sawsh amily are a type o ray and are thereore related tosharks. Found in both marine and resh water, these predatory sh derive theirname rom their long snouts lined with sharp points.Overshing and habitat change have caused major declines in sawshstocks globally. Northern Australia is one o the ew places wherethey may not be in immediate danger o extinction.
Live births
Female sawsh produceeggs in their ovaries andthese are ertilised by themales’ sperm in a ductconnecting the ovary tothe uterus – rather like theallopian tubes in humans.Like sharks, male sawshhave special organs calledclaspers that they use toinsert sperm inside theemales.From ertilization to birthtakes several months. The sawsh embryos grow attached to eggscontained in the mother and when they are ully developed, theyare born live. Narrow sawsh are known to have up to 23 pups.A membrane protects the rostra o sawsh embryos inside theuterus. Just beore birth their rostra harden. Shortly ater birth,the membrane dissolves, allowing the young sawsh to hunt orsmall prey.While growth rates vary between species and are poorlyunderstood, young sawsh probably grow quickly. Freshwatersawsh may reach up to 100 centimetres in length by their rstbirthday and 140 centimetres by their second. As they reachmaturity, their growth rate slows down.Some sawsh species are thought to live to 30 years’ old ormore. Their relatively low rate o reproduction mean that sawshstocks are slow to recover i depleted.Unortunately, sawsh lie cycles, including their slow rates o growth and low numbers o ospring, mean their stocks areeasily threatened.Sawsh species that inhabit estuaries or rivers – such as thereshwater and dwar sawsh – are particularly vulnerable becausetheir reproductive and survival strategies are closely relatedto particular environments. Changes to water quality, habitatavailability and land uses such as dams can greatly aect them.All sawsh are also at risk o being unintentionally caught byshers as bycatch. This occurs throughout northern Australiaduring commercial shing operations, as well as in rivers in theKimberley due to the popularity o recreational barramundi shing.Sawsh carcasses with shing line wrapped around the rostrahave been ound near shing spots on the Fitzroy River.In addition,sawsh aresometimesillegally killed bypeople who wanttheir rostra orsouvenirs.Although sawshare probably not inimmediate dangero extinction inWestern Australia,in many other parts o the world, they have become rare or locallyextinct. Thereore, it has become even more important to lookater sawsh in Australia.
Hunting and deence
Fine electromagnetic sensors along a sawsh’s rostrum help itto detect movement. This is especially useul or hunting prey inmurky water, such as tidal creeks in the Kimberley. In addition,the sensors may enable sawsh to detect prey buried in sandand mud such as crabs and prawns.Sawsh use their rostrum to club and slash prey, including othersh, beore consuming it whole. Some sawsh have been oundto have catsh spines embedded in their rostrum and sh scalesimpaled on the rostral ‘teeth’.Rostra may also be used in deence against sharks that preyon sawsh.
Because they will eat dead bait and strike at lures, sawfshare prone to being accidentally caught by anglers.
These young reshwater sawsh were caught 150 kilometresupstream rom the mouth o the Fitzroy River. They are about to betagged and released. Photo: Dean ThorburnThe umbilical scar is still visible on thisnewborn reshwater sawsh.Photo: Dean Thorburn
PerthDunsboroughPort Hedland
Eighty Mile Beach
Fitzroy River 
Western Australia
O seven sawsh species knownto exist in the world, our areound in Western Australia. Thesespecies – the reshwater, dwar,narrow and green sawsh – aremainly ound in the Kimberleyand Pilbara. On rare occasions,sawsh, including reshwatersawsh, have been recorded asar south as Cape Naturaliste nearDunsborough.
Cultural signifcance
Freshwater sawsh are a traditional ood source or Aboriginalpeople living along the Fitzroy River. The species eatures instories and belies. Bunuba people call reshwater sawsh‘galwanyi’, the Gooniyandi people call it ‘wirridanyniny’, theNyikina, ‘pial pial’ and the Walmajarri people, ‘wirrdani’.A traditional way o catching sawsh and other species by theNyikina and Walmajarri people is to put bark rom a reshwatermangrove tree in a waterhole. This removes oxygen rom thewater, causing the sh to foat and become easy to catch.
Threats to sawfsh in Western Australia
Primary distributionOccasional distribution
This sawsh’s rostrum has been illegally hackedo, probably or a souvenir. Photo: Dean Thorburn
Releasing a sawfsh
Most sawsh have a good chanceo survival i caught on a shingline or net and careully released.Fishers are advised to leave thesawsh in the water and i possible,remove the hook and all o the lineso that it can swim away. While ahook let in the sawsh’s mouth willeventually corrode and dissolve, anyshing line attached to it may oulwith aquatic organisms and couldcause the sawsh a slow death. I the hook cannot be removed, shersshould at least remove the line.
In WA, all sawfsh are totally protected rom recreational and commercial fshing under State legislation. In addition,the reshwater sawfsh is protected under Federal legislation.The export o sawfsh and sawfsh products is alsorestricted under CITES.
Freshwater sawfsh
Pristis microdon
Also called:
Leichhardt’s sawsh,largetooth sawsh
Some Asian and east Aricannations and northern Australia,including WA’s Durack, Ord, Robinsonand Fitzroy rivers, up to 400 kilometresinland. It appears juveniles live inrivers beore moving to the ocean whenmature to breed.
Reportedly up to seven metreslong. Immature specimens caught inrivers can be up to 2.8 metres long.
Conservation status:
Criticallyendangered (IUCN Red List); vulnerable(
); totally protected (
Dwar sawfsh
Pristis clavata
Also called:
Queensland, theNorthern Territory andWA, including King Soundnear Derby and the lowerreaches o rivers enteringit, including the Fitzroy, Mayand Robinson rivers, as wellas the ocean about as arsouth as Eighty Mile Beach.
At least 3.1 metres.
Conservation status:
 Critically endangered(IUCN Red List); totallyprotected (
Narrow sawfsh
 Anoxypristis cuspidate
Queensland, the Northern Territory and WA, such as o EightyMile Beach. Occurs inshore and oshore to at least 100 metres.
Up to 4.7 metres.
Conservation status:
Critically endangered (IUCN Red List);totally protected (
Green sawfsh
Pristis zijsron
Also called:
Longcomb sawsh
Recordedo WA, the NorthernTerritory, Queenslandand Victoria. Preersinshore marine areasand bays as a juvenilewhile adults can beound in the ocean inwater 70 metres deepor more. Adults are alsoknown to requent riversand inshore watersto pup during the wetseason.
Up to 7.3 metres.
Conservation status:
Critically endangered (IUCNRed List); rare or likely to become extinct (WesternAustralian
Wildlife Conservation Act, 1950
);totally protected (
Sawsh caught on a lineor in a gillnet can be saelydisentangled i care is taken.Photo: Dean ThorburnThis sawsh, injured by a shing line, was released and is thought tohave survived. Photo: Dean Thorburn
Western Australian sawfsh
Photo: Dean ThorburnJuvenile dwar sawshPhoto: Stirling PeverellPhoto: Stirling PeverellPhoto: Rory McAuley

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