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Temporal range: Upper Jurassic–recent[1]
Pristiophorus nudipinnis.jpg
Shortnose sawshark, Pristiophorus nudipinnis
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Subclass: Elasmobranchii
Infraclass: Euselachii
Superorder: Selachimorpha
Order: Pristiophoriformes
L. S. Berg, 1958
Family: Pristiophoridae
Bleeker, 1859

The sawshark or saw shark is an order (Pristiophoriformes) of sharks bearing a unique long, saw-like rostrum (snout or bill) edged with sharp teeth, which they use to slash and disable their prey. There are nine species within the prisiophoriformes family including Longnose Saw shark (Pristiophorus cirratus), Shortnose Sawshark (Pristiophorus nudipinnis), Japanese Saw shark (Pristiophorus japonicas), Bahamas Sawshark (Pristiophorus schroederi), Sixgill Sawshark (Pliotrema warren), Common Sawshark, African Dwarf Sawshark, Lana's Sawshark and the Tropical Sawshark (Pristiophorus delicatus).[3]

The sawshark is found in many areas around the world, but is most commonly found in waters from the Indian Ocean to the Southern Pacific Ocean. They are normally found depths around 40–100 m, but can be found at much lower depths in tropical regions. The Bahamas Sawshark was discovered in deeper waters (640 m to 915 m) of the northwestern Caribbean.

Description and life cycle[edit]

Sawsharks have a pair of long barbels about halfway along the snout. They have two dorsal fins, but lack anal fins.[4] Genus Pliotrema has six gill slits, and Pristiophorus the more usual five. The teeth of the saw typically alternate between large and small. Saw sharks reach a length of up to 5 feet and a weight of 18.7 pounds with females tending to be slightly larger than males.[5]

The body of a long nose saw shark is covered in tiny placoid scales: modified teeth covered in hard enamel.[6] The body is a yellow-brown color which is sometimes covered in dark spots or blotches. This coloration allows the saw shark to easily blend with the sandy ocean floor.[7]

These sharks typically feed on small fish, squid, and crustaceans, depending on species. They navigate the ocean floor using the barbels on the saw to detect prey in mud or sand, then hit prey with side-to-side swipes of the saw, crippling them. The saw can also be utilized against other predators in defense. The saw is covered with specialized cells, ampullae of Lorenzini which detect an electric field which is given off by buried prey.[8]

Saw sharks have a relatively slow life history. Mating season occurs seasonally in coastal areas. Saw sharks are ovoviviparous meaning eggs hatch inside of the mother. They have litters of 3-22 pups every 2 years. After 12 months of pregnancy, the pups are born at 30 cm long. It is interesting to note that while in the mother, pups teeth are inverted into their mouth to avoid harm. The sharks care for their young until they are sexually mature at 2 years of age and at which point can fend for themselves. Saw sharks typically live more than 15 years in the wild [9] They can be found living in solitary or in schools.[7]

Human interaction[edit]

Among the different species of saw shark, all are listed on the IUCN Red List of 2017 as either data deficient or of least concern[10] Saw sharks do not see much human interaction because of their deep habitats.


Long nose sawshark[edit]

The longnose sawshark (Pristiophorus  cirratus) is one of 9 species of aquatic life within the Pristiophoridae family [11] The Long Nose Sawshark is unique to the pristiophoridae family with its unique physical characteristics which include a long, thin, and flattened snout. Midway down the snout, nasal barbells protrude on both sides of the snout.[12] Near the barbells, the long nose sawshark possess a pair of sensory organs called Ampullae of Lorenzini, used to detect electrical fields. It is unique among the sawshark family by having a longer snout than any of its counter species.[12] The Long Nose Sawshark is not a very large with lengths ranging from around 14 inches at birth to 38 inches in males and 44 inches in females.[13] They can also grow to a weight of 18.7 pounds.[14] They are known to swim in the waters off the southern coast of Australia’s continental shelf. They can also be found in the eastern portion of the Indian ocean.[12] The long-nose sawshark prefers to swim in both the open sea and coastal regions at a depth range of about 120–480 feet.[13] The Long Nose Sawshark is known to prey on small teleost fish,crustaceans, and small squids. It uses its barbells to detect life on the ocean floor which it then hits with its snout to immobilize its prey.[13]

Short nose sawshark[edit]

The short nose sawshark (Pristiophorus nudipinnis) is similar to the long nose shark; however, it has a slightly compressed body and shorter more narrow rostrum. It has 13 teeth in front of its barbells and 6 behind.[15] The short-nose sawshark tends to be uniformly slate grey with no markings on its dorsal side and pale white or cream on its ventral side.[16] Females reach around 124 cm (49 in) long, and males reach around 110 cm (43 in) long. These sharks can live to be up to 9 years old.[16] like other sawsharks, the Short Nose lives a benthic lifestyle and feeds on benthic invertebrates. It uses its barbells to detect life on the ocean floor which it then paralyzes with its rostrum. The species reproduction is ovoviviparous and tends to give birth to a litter of 7–14 pups biannually.[16] They swim on the ocean floors off the coast of Australia.

Bahamas sawshark[edit]

The Bahamas sawsharks (Pristiophorus schroeder) have very little information on them. Studies are being done daily to learn more about the deep sea dweller.[17] They are located near Cuba, Florida, and the Bahamas hence their name, in these said areas they dwell in the depths of 400–1000 m. As far as their appearance they can be identified by their snouts with teeth which appear as a saw, as well as their length, they are averaged at 80 cm in length.[18]

Six gill sawshark[edit]

The six gill sawshark (pliotrema warreni) is known for its six pairs of gills located on its sides close to the head. They are pale brown in color, with a white underbelly. Along with their color something that sets them apart from the other types of sawfish is their size: the females are around 136 cm where the male are around 112 cm. Six-gill sawsharks feed on shrimp, squid and bony fish. In their location they are considered a prize to catch.[19] As far as their location they are located around the southern portion of South Africa, and Madagascar. They dwell in the rage of 37–500 m, preferring to stay in the warmer water. They have between 5 and 7 pups from 7–17 eggs. They have these young in the range of 37–50 m deep to make sure the pups are warm [20]

Common sawshark[edit]

The common sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus) is another sawshark of the family Pristiophoridae.[21] Like the other members of the Pristiophorus family, the common sawshark can be identified by a long snout with rows of small teeth and barbells on either side. It has five gill slits on either side of its head and between 19 and 25 teeth on each side.[22] It can be distinguished by its grey to brown color on the dorsal side and white on its ventral side. The sides of the snout are often darker, and there are two brownish stripes along the top of the snout.[22] The common sawshark can grow up to at least 1.1 m. It can be found swimming along the sea floor of Australia's temperate waters.

Tropical sawshark[edit]

The tropical sawshark (Pristiophorus delicatus) a pale brown with a yellow hew, and an underbelly that is a pale yellow to white.[23] This deep water dwelling fish is located off the Northeastern shore of Australia, in depths up to 176–405 m. It averages in size at about 95 cm. Other then its location and appearance little is known of the creature, it is harder to catch due to its ability to travel into the depths of the ocean.[24]

African dwarf sawshark[edit]

The African dwarf sawshark (Pristophorus nancyae) is a small five-gill sawshark that swims off the coast of Mozambique. It was first discovered in 2011 when a specimen was caught off the coast of Mozambique at a depth of 1,600 ft.[25] The African dwarf sawshark has since then been spotted off the coasts of Kenya and Yemen.[26] It can be distinguished from other sawsharks by its location, and by having its barbells closer to its mouth than the end of its rostrum. It has a brownish grey color and becomes white along the ventral side.[26] Little else is known about the African Dwarf Sawshark as it is a newly discovered species.

Japanese sawshark[edit]

Th Japanese sawshark (Pristiophorus japonicus) is a species of sawshark that swims off the coast of Japan, Korea, and Northern China. It swims at a depth of 500 m.[27] It has around 15–26 large rostral teeth in front of the barbells, which are equal distance from the gills to the snout, and about 9–17 teeth behind the barbells.[27] Like all sawsharks, the Japanese sawshark is ovovivparous, and feeds on crustaceans and bottom dwelling organisms.[28]

Lana's sawshark[edit]

The Lana's sawshark (Pristiophorus Lanae) is a species of sawshark that inhabits the Phillipine coast. It was discovered in 1966 by Dave Ebert, who distinguished it as a new species of sawshark based on its number of rostral teeth.[29] The Lana's sawfish was named after Lana Elbert on the occasion of her Graduation from The University of Francisco.[30] It has a dark uniform brown color on the dorsal side and a pale white on the ventral side.[31] It is slender bodied, has five gills on each side, and can grow to be around 70 cm.[31]

Comparison with sawfish[edit]

Saw sharks and sawfish are cartilaginous fish possessing large saws. These are the only two fish that have a long blade-like snout.[32] Although they are similar in appearances, saw sharks are distinct from sawfish. Sawfish are not sharks, but a type of ray. The gill slits of the sawfishes are positioned on the underside like a ray, but the gill slits of the saw shark are positioned on the side like a shark. Sawfish can have a much larger size, lack barbels, and have evenly sized teeth rather than alternating teeth of the saw shark. Clear difference is that a sawfish has no barbels and a saw shark has a prominent pair halfway along the saw. The saw shark uses these like other bottom fish, as a kind of antennae, feeling the way along the ocean bottom until it finds some prey of interest. Both the saw shark and the sawfish utilize the electroreceptors on the saw, ampullae of Lorenzini, to detect the electric field given off by buried prey.[5]

Comparison of sawsharks and sawfishes
Characteristic Sawshark Sawfish Sources
Gill openings Peripheral (sides) Ventral (underside) [33]
Barbels Single pair of barbels on saw No barbels
Saw teeth Alternate between large and small Equal size
Habitat Deep offshore waters Shallow coastal waters [33]
Size Relatively small, reaching only 5 ft Relatively large, reaching 23 ft [33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2009). "Pristiophoriformes" in FishBase. January 2009 version.
  2. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2013). "Pristiophoridae" in FishBase. October 2013 version.
  3. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ "Pliotrema warreni summary page". FishBase. Retrieved 8 December 2017. 
  5. ^ a b "Saw Shark Facts". Retrieved 8 December 2017. 
  6. ^ "Why Shark Skin Is So Rough". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 2017-12-07. 
  7. ^ a b "Saw shark Facts". Retrieved 2017-12-07. 
  8. ^ "Longnose Sawshark". 
  9. ^ "Little Sawshark - Pristiophorus cirratus - Details - Encyclopedia of Life". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 8 December 2017. 
  10. ^ "Search Results". Retrieved 2017-12-08. 
  11. ^ "Longnose Sawshark". Retrieved 2017-12-09. 
  12. ^ a b c "Pristiophorus cirratus (Common sawshark)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2017-12-09. 
  13. ^ a b c "Sandy Plains: Longnose Sawshark". Retrieved 2017-12-09. 
  14. ^ "Saw shark Facts". Retrieved 2017-12-09. 
  15. ^ "Order: Pristiophoriformes Family: Pristiophoridae (Sawsharks) - ppt video online download". Retrieved 2017-12-09. 
  16. ^ a b c "Shortnose sawshark". Wikipedia. 2017-12-03. 
  17. ^ Heupel,, M.R. "Pristiophorus schroederi". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2006. Retrieved 9 December 2017. 
  18. ^ Carpenter, Kent E.; Kesner-Reyes, Kathleen. "Pristiophorus schroederi Springer & Bullis, 1960 Bahamas sawshark". FishBase. Retrieved 9 December 2017. 
  19. ^ "Pliotrema warreni". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 9 December 2017. 
  20. ^ Fowler, S.L. "Pliotrema warreni". he IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T44496A10901776. Retrieved 9 December 2017. 
  21. ^ "Longnose sawshark". Wikipedia. 2017-09-19. 
  22. ^ a b "Common Sawshark, Pristiophorus cirratus (Latham, 1794) - Australian Museum". Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  23. ^ Rigby, C.L.; Heupel, M.R. "Pristiophorus delicatus". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T42720A68641067. Retrieved 9 December 2017. 
  24. ^ Capuli, Estelita Emily. "Pristiophorus delicatus Yearsley, Last & White, 2008 Tropical sawshark". FishBase. Retrieved 9 December 2017. 
  25. ^ "Pristiophorus nancyae". Wikipedia. 2017-09-19. 
  26. ^ a b "Pristiophorus nancyae summary page". FishBase. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  27. ^ a b "Pristiophorus japonicus summary page". FishBase. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  28. ^ "Marine Species Identification Portal : Japanese sawshark - Pristiophorus japonicus". Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  29. ^ "Lana's Sawshark". California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  30. ^ "Pristiophorus lanae: New Species of Sawshark Discovered | Biology |". Breaking Science News | Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  31. ^ a b "Pristiophorus lanae summary page". FishBase. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  32. ^ "Shark Species Introduction". 
  33. ^ a b c Ichthyology: Sawfish Biology University of Florida, Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 23 March 2013.

External links[edit]