January 15, 2012
Fishy Friday - Smalltooth Sawfish
Sawfish ancestors first appeared in the fossil record some 100 million years ago. That's a L-O-N-G time ago! They are more closely related to skates and rays than to sharks - their pectoral fins are connected to the head, whereas sharks and their relatives have distinctly separate pectoral fins that are low on the body.
The 'teeth' in a Sawfish's rostrum, are not teeth at all. They are actually modified scales. Their real teeth are tiny, numerous, and arranged in bands along the jaws. The rostrum is a very long, flattened, cartilagenous snout. The skin on the underside of the rosturm has hundreds, if not thousands, of sensory pores that help the Sawfish locate prey in bottom sediment.
Once prey is detected, the Sawfish digs around in the bottom with its long, toothy rostrum. The Sawfish then dines on wounded fishes and invertebrates. The Sawfish also uses its rostrum to slice through schools of baitfish.
Unfortunately for the sawfish, its saw is its greatest asset and its own worst enemy. Fishermen hunted this fish for its curious snout. In addition, the saw gets tangled in nets, lines and rigging. Frustrated fishermen would kill the Sawfish in an effort to save gear. On top of these challenges, Sawfishes have to share their shallow-water habitat with millions of water-going humans. The Smalltooth Sawfish once ranged from New Jersey to Brazil. Now, populations are restricted to small pockets. They are now considered Endangered and have total protection in the state of Florida.
Most folks will never see a live Sawfish in the wild. I know I probably won't. The fishermen in the video below were obviously aware of the Sawfish's status, and had the foresight to contact Fish and Wildlife scientists. While it's sad to see such a rare fish dead, at least its body will help further conservation efforts.
For more on Sawfish, CLICK HERE, and... HERE!