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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Fish: Smalltooth Sawfish



Description

The most eye-catching feature of the sawfish is of course, their saw-like snout; called a rostrum. The rostrum is covered with motion and electro-sensitive pores that allow sawfishes to detect movement and even heartbeats of buried prey in the ocean floor. The rostrum acts like a metal detector as the sawfish hovers over the bottom, looking for hidden food. It has also been used as a digging tool to unearth buried crustaceans. When a suitable prey swims by, the normally lethargic sawfish will spring from the bottom and slash at it furiously with its saw. This generally stuns or injures the prey sufficiently for the sawfish to devour it without much resistance. Sawfishes have also been known to defend themselves with their rostrum, against predators (like sharks) and intruding divers. The "teeth" protruding from the rostrum are not real teeth, but modified scales. Due to the appearance of the fish, sawfishes are sometimes called "Sharks with Swords".

Status: The smalltooth sawfish is classified as Endangered (EN A1bcd +2cd) on the IUCN Red List 2003 and as Endangered under the United States National Marine Fisheries Service