Common Name– Sawsharks
A Sawshark or Saw shark is a member of a shark order Pristiophoriformes bearing a unique long, saw-like rostrum edged with sharp teeth, which they use to slash and disable their prey. There are 9 species within the Pristiophoriformes.
Sharks in the sawshark family (Pristiophoridae) are similar to the sawfish family (Pristidae) in their saw-like snout but are smaller and have the basic structural design of sharks rather than rays. Distinguishing features of sawsharks include a slight compression of their body and strong flattening of their head.
Sawsharks are found in many areas around the world but are most commonly found in waters from the Indian Ocean to the southern Pacific Ocean. They are normally found at depths around 130 feet to 330 feet but can be found at much lower depths in tropical regions. The Bahamas sawshark was discovered in deeper waters 2,030 to 3,000 feet of the northwestern Caribbean.
Sawsharks have a pair of long barbels about halfway along the snout. They have two dorsal fins, but do not have anal fins. Genus Pliotrema has 6 gill slits, and Pristiophorus has 5. 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. The body of a Longnose saw shark is covered in tiny placoid scales: modified teeth covered in hard enamel. 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.
Sawsharks 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 ampullae of Lorenzini which detect an electric field which is given off by buried prey. Sawsharks are ovoviviparous and they have litters of 3–22 pups every 2 years. Sawsharks care for their young until they are sexually mature at 2 years of age. Sawsharks typically live more than 15 years in the wild. They can be found living in solitary or in schools.
African Dwarf Sawshark or Dwarf Sawshark– Pristiophorus nancyae
Bahamas Sawshark– Pristiophorus schroederi
Eastern Australian Sawshark– Pristiophorus peroniensis
Japanese Sawshark– Pristiophorus japonicas
Lana’s Sawshark or Philippine Sawshark– Pristiophorus lanae
Longnose Sawshark or Common Sawshark– Pristiophorus cirratus
Shortnose Sawshark or Southern Sawshark– Pristiophorus nudipinnis
Sixgill Sawshark– Pliotrema warreni