Creature Feature: Largetooth Sawfish

Published October 14, 2014

In this week’s creature feature, we’re introducing you to the prehistoric sawfish—an animal that’s been roaming our waters since the Cretaceous period!

It’s October, a month dedicated to all things spooky—the cold is creeping in and Halloween is just around the corner. And we’re celebrating all month long by highlighting some of the weird and wonderful creatures you can find right here at the National Aquarium.


The foreboding sawfish may look like a shark and have the same cartilaginous skeleton, but don’t be fooled—this elasmobranch is actually part of the ray family. And despite a fierce looking face, the largetooth sawfish is generally a docile creature when unprovoked.

The sawfish gets its name from its long, serrated snout, edged with up to 23 teeth. And while that formidable toothed rostrum may deter some, the sawfish still has its fair share of predators, including the American crocodile.


Sawfish are a critically endangered species. Their “saws,” while beneficial for defense, have also made them more vulnerable to becoming entangled in fishing nets and accidentally hulled aboard. Young sawfish tend to frequent shallower waters where human impact, such as habitat degradation, is more prominent.

Because it takes about eight to 10 years for a sawfish to reach sexual maturity, it’s difficult for this slow-growing population to quickly recover.

Check back next week for more on the strange side of the animal kingdom!

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