(The press release; infographic)
Here in the United States, we have two of the five sawfish species: the Smalltooth and Largetooth Sawfish. They both look like… well, like they got bored and attached chainsaws at the end of their faces. Because that’s a fun thing to do.
They “chainsaw” looking teeth don’t cut through wood, though, instead helping the sawfish locate and eventually kill their prey (mostly fish, sometimes crustaceans). Each side of their rostrum (see anatomy of sawfish below) has around 20-30 teeth per each side, with males having broader teeth.
Sawfish, like sharks, skates and rays, are elasmobranchs (skeleton= cartilage, like your ears and nose). Sawfish are actually rays, that look like sharks- but their gills are on the ventral side (their stomach side). They have white underbellies and are brown to olive-green in color.
While both the smalltooth and largetooth sawfish look alike and can be mistaken by the untrained eye, there exist a few differences that one should take note of. First, while both are endangered, smalltooth sawfish are still being caught while largetooth sawfish was last identified in Texas back in 1961. In fact, in Florida waters, the last time someone confirmed a largetooth sawfish was 1941! This is when scientists consider the animal “regionally extinct,” meaning that it is extinct within a certain area, but other populations can still be found elsewhere.
Sawfish are still susceptible to things like bycatch, their rostrum getting easily entangled in any fishing gear. They are also suffering from loss of habitat, like many animals nowadays. However, there is some good news! They’re been protected in Florida since 1992, and protected under the US Endangered Species Act in 2003; they are under a protection program of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
To report a sawfish sighting:
To file a report of a sawfish sighting or encounter, please include the date and time of the encounter, the location, the estimated length of the sawfish, the water depth, and any other relevant details.
Thank you for sharing your information with us and supporting the research efforts!