Narrow Sawfish (Anoxypristis cuspidata)
Did You Know?
· Narrow sawfish can have 18-32 teeth on each side of their "saw," or rostrum. The number of teeth varies by sex, region and individual.
|Length:||up to 15 ft (4.5 m)|
|Appearance:||known for their "saws," long, thin flat snouts edged with pairs of teeth, except near head, dark grey upper body coloration|
|Lifespan:||up to 27 years; maturity is reached at 2-3 years (at 8-15 feet (2.5-4.5 m) in length)|
|Diet:||mostly fish and cuttlefish|
|Behavior:||"ovoviviparous", meaning the mother holds the eggs inside of her until the young are ready to be born; litter sizes of up to 23 pups (average 12) which are born in the spring|
Sawfish, like sharks, skates and rays, belong to a group of fish called elasmobranchs, whose skeletons are made of cartilage. Sawfish are actually modified rays with a shark-like body and gill slits on their ventral (abdominal) side.
Early sawfish, distant cousins to modern day sawfish, first appeared in the ocean around 100 million years ago. Today's "modern day" sawfish species have been in the ocean around 56 million years. Narrow sawfish are in a different genus than other living sawfishes due to morphological differences that include its narrow rostral saw, which lacks teeth on the first quarter of the saw closest to the head in adults, and the distinct shape of the lower lobe of the caudal fin and a second pair of lateral canals in its rostrum.
Sawfish get their name from their rostrum or "saws"--long, flat snouts edged with pairs of teeth which are used to locate, stun, and kill prey. Narrow sawfish eat mostly fish and cuttlefish, but may also consume some crustaceans and polychaete worms.
Narrow sawfish are generally restricted to shallow (less than 130 feet (40 m)) coastal and estuarine habitats with salinities between 25 and 35 parts per thousand. Like most sawfishes, the narrow sawfish prefers muddy bottoms in estuarine environments.
The narrow sawfish was once found throughout much of the western Pacific Ocean and throughout the Indian Ocean as far west as the Red Sea in Egypt and Somalia. Their range has contracted and there are now very few records in the Indian Ocean. Landings are now only reported off India, and the last published record of narrow sawfish from the western edge of the range, was in 1997. In the Indo-Pacific outside of Australia, the only reported specimen in the 21st century is a single report from New Guinea in 2001. In Australia, narrow sawfish have been reported recently in the northern part of the country.
No robust estimates of historic or current population size exist. However, available data, museum and catch reports, and other records indicate that the species' distribution has been greatly reduced and that the population numbers have declined dramatically.
- entanglement in nets, lines, and trawls
- bycatch in fisheries, though in some areas they have been directly targeted
- loss of habitat
- juvenile sawfish use shallow habitats as important nursery areas, many of these have been modified or lost due to development
- inadequate regulatory mechanisms
Their low rate of population growth has also likely contributed to their decline.
All sawfish (Pristidae) species are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Appendix I limits international trade in species to exceptional circumstances only.
In September 2010, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) received a petition from WildEarth Guardians requesting that this species be listed under the ESA. On June 4, 2013, NMFS published a proposed rule to list the species as endangered.
|12-Month Finding and Proposed Endangered Listing of Five Species of Sawfish||78 FR 33300||06/04/2013|
|90-day finding on Petition, Initiation of Status Review||76 FR 12308||03/07/2011|
|Petition to list Six Species of Sawfish||n/a||09/07/2010|
- IUCN Red List Species Information
- Florida Museum of Natural History Species Information
- Fishbase Species Summary
Updated: August 19, 2013