Largetooth Sawfish

Pristis pristis

Sawfish, are rays, although they have a body similar to a shark’s. The largetooth sawfish’s most prominent feature is its rostrum, also referred to as snout or saw, which has 14 to 23 large rostral teeth protruding from it, and comprises almost a quarter of the total length of the sawfish. Its body color can range from gray to greenish to golden brown, while its underbelly is cream-colored.

Sawfish travel far up river systems and even live in freshwater. Sometimes, they may venture into bays and coastal marine habitats, especially during the dry season. Mature sawfish have occasionally been found in deeper ocean waters.

A sawfish’s gestation period is believed to be about five months, and that females reprocuce every other year. There may be four to ten sawfish in a litter. The number of rostral teeth is fixed during development. The rostral teeth are formed, somewhat flexible, and covered by a thin membrane, but harden upon birth.

Did You Know?

This species is tolerant of a wide-range of salinities, occurring from freshwater to seawater (euryhaline).


Largetooth sawfish prey upon small fishes, prawns, and other crustaceans. Fishes dominate the diet as they grow.


They can reach a maximum length of 19.7 ft, and have been reported to attain 23 feet.


Circumtropical in coastal waters, and in some river systems, including the famed Lake Nicaragua population.

Population Status

IUCN classifies them as “critically endangered.” Sawfish are listed under the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) under Appendix I. They have suffered significant declines in all areas of their range. They are also protected under the United States Endangered Species Act.


They have few known predators, but occasionally, sharks or saltwater crocodiles may hunt them.

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