Miniature sawshark off the African coast

The African Dwarf sawshark or Dwarf sawshark (Pristiophorus nancyae), is a sawshark of the family Pristiophoridae. The species was discovered in 2011 when a specimen was caught off the coast of Mozambique at a depth of 1,607 feet. This shark was named by researchers at the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, the west coast representative of the National Shark Research Consortium. It was named after Nancy Packard of the Packard family, who has donated generously to organizations researching the oceans.


Family: Pristiophoridae – Sawsharks

Genus: Pristiophorus 

Species: nancyae


Phylum– Chordata

Class– Chondrichthyles



Common Name– Sawsharks

Family– Pristiophoridae

Common Name– Sawsharks




Average Size and Length: Mature male African Dwarf sawsharks are 1.5-1.6 feet. Mature females up to 1.9 feet. The maximum recorded is more than 2 feet.  

Teeth and Jaw: There are prominent ridges on the base of the large lateral rostral teeth.

Head: There are 2 rows of 4 or 5 enlarged pits on the pre-barbel, underside of the rostrum. The barbels are much closer to the mouth than the rostral tip. The rostrum is about one-third its total length.

Demographic, Distribution, Habitat, Environment and Range: The African Dwarf sawshark has primarily been found off the coast of Mozambique in the West Indian Ocean. Possible records of the African Dwarf shark off the coasts of Somalia, Kenya, and to the Arabian Sea off the coast of Pakistan remain unconfirmed. It lives a benthic lifestyle on the upper continental shelf, at depths reaching 938 to 1,640 feet.

Diet: Based on the stomach samples taken in the field, that the African Dwarf sawsharks favor benthic invertebrates like small crustaceans.

Aesthetic Identification: The African Dwarf sawshark is very small. It is uniform brown above, and counter-shaded white below. The rostrum is pale with dark brown stripes on the middle and on the edges. The pectoral and the dorsal fins have dark anterior margins, with apparent light trailing edges. These margins are much more prominent in juveniles. The first dorsal fin is broad and triangular. The rear tip extends behind the pelvic fin midbases.

Biology and Reproduction: Unknown but possibly ovoviviparous.

Behavioral Traits, Sensing and Intelligence: Unknown.

African Dwarf Sawshark Future and Conservation: The African Dwarf sawshark is not evaluated, however it is thought to be at great risk of being caught as bycatch in shrimping and bottom deep-water trawling operations.

African Dwarf Sawshark Recorded Attacks on Humans: Not a threat to humans.