They are a tropical rays, related to sharks,
and are found in Australian estuaries (ie river mouths
where the saltwater mixes with fresh) and freshwater
They have a flattened body with a prominent long flat
Hence they are sometimes referred to as "Sharks with Swords"
Its shark-like tail propels it through the water with
graceful undulations, and the flattened body and head
indicates a bottom dwelling fish.
The sharp awl-like teeth are not true
teeth at all; they are really modified scales, but the
jaws are lined
with a pavement of thousands of tiny dome-shaped teeth.
As with other rays, the mouth, Nares (nostrils), & gill
slits are located on the flat undersurface.
Colour wise they differ depending on species and
location but the upper
surface is dark to blend in with the muddy seafloor;
the underside is
white, to blend in with the water surface when seen
Females give birth to live young which have a "soft"
Sawfishes eat only small fish and bottom-dwelling
crabs and shrimps, which can be crushed and swallowed
whole through the mouth.
These flattened shark-like rays, born about 0.65m
reach lengths of over
The freshwater species is Australia's largest
There are 8 species world wide of which 5 can be
found in Australian waters
All species travel between salt and freshwater at will.
many rivers, creeks,
and bays in QLD, NT, and WA and are common on the
They are slow and docile, preferring to rest over muddy
shallow water around river mouths and freshwater systems.
The water they live in is very muddy, so they cannot
well, so reply on their sensitive snouts for information
They use the long flat toothy snout in four ways:
1) the snout houses electroreceptors which senses
the heartbeats of
buried prey like prawns, crabs, and other invertebrates.
2)The snout is
also motion sensitive, so they can track and slash at
swimming fish in
the murky water.
3) With buried prey, the snout becomes a rake;
4) with fishes, a slashing tool to disable fast moving
Australia has the most species of any other country
having 5 of the 8
species found world wide
1. Freshwater Sawfish (Pristis microdon ) inhabits
creeks, and travels into brackish water. Have been
located up to 100km
inland. Biggest Freshwater fish in Australia (See Pic)
2. Green Sawfish (Pristis zijron) prefers muddy bays
and estuaries and
this huge ray is the most common sawfish found in
3. Queensland Sawfish (Pristis clavata) sometimes
called a "Dwarf
Sawfish" prefers muddy bays and estuaries along the
northern coast and
only grows to approx. 140 cm
4. Smalltooth Sawfish (Pristis pectinata) sometimes
called a "Wide
Sawfish" prefers muddy bays and estuaries Bluish grey
to Olive green in
5. Knifetooth Sawfish (Anoxypristis cuspidata) sometimes
"Narrow Sawfish" prefers muddy bays and estuaries and is
in top colour
All sawfishes are endangered now due to massive
accidental capture in
Nets (Gill nets and Trawling nets), as the sawfish
probe through the
sediment for food
Their toothy saw prevents escape from any net once
Heavy trading in their "toothy saw" both as a souvenir
and as a medicine
also contributed to their international decline
A huge thanks to Matthew McDavitt for being my main source of information