Wednesday, April 16, 2008


This will not be the first time I’ve written about things with exciting nasal protuberances. I don’t find these noses ugly—they all do nifty things, and I can’t help but write about them.
Image from Elasmodiver
Image from Elasmodiver

The rostrum of Green Sawfish (Pristis zijsron) is no exception. It uses its saw mainly for feeding—swiping at unsuspecting fish, stunning and injuring the intended prey, or raking up tasty crustaceans from the seafloor. The Sawfish is closely related to sharks and rays, and, like them, has sharp scales called denticles; these have been modified to form the “teeth” of the saw. Catching food is not the only thing the rostrum is good for, as it is lined with motion- and electric- sensing pores to find buried prey. That, and if anything happens to appear threatening, it couldn’t hurt to have a spiky protrusion on… um… hand.

I thought Wikipedia had a typo when it stated that the Green Sawfish grew as large as 7 meters—surely, they must mean feet. Nope. This is a big fish. They reach maturity at 14 feet. Think of the length of a typical bedroom. A little more than half of that is filled with a fish that looks halfway between a shark and a ray. The other five and a half feet is a nose with spikes. Don’t worry; humans are much too large to be considered prey, though you might not want to provoke them.

The Green Sawfish is the most common sawfish. It’s also critically endangered. That doesn’t bode too well for the other species. In fact, the Common Sawfish (Pristis pristis) is pretty close to becoming extinct. The biggest threat to all sawfish is accidental by-catch by the fishing industry. Let’s face it, with a proboscis like that, getting tangled in nets would not be pleasant. Less frequently, they are caught on purpose—for meat, for oil, or for an interesting six-foot long spiky thing. As of yet, they are only beginning to set conservation measures into place.


Anonymous said...

I like the bug on the logo. Nice touch!

Unknown said...


Green sawfish to be declared extinct in NSW - 30 January
Now here is a piece of unpleasant news, again pointing out to the world (and hopefully some politicians) that more marine sanctuaries and other forms of protection are needed - and not just in New South Wales.
The green sawfish has fallen victim to commercial prawn trawling. It is easily caught in nets, hard to untangle, and unlikely to be thrown back alive.
The committee also said the fish were hunted by poachers for use in shark-fin soup, traditional medicine, and to be sold as curios. The degradation of their environment had also contributed to their demise.
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) said the sawfish's fate sounded a warning bell for other marine life, such as the endangered grey nurse shark.
For the full story go to to this page from the Daily Telegraph,22049,21135680-5006009,00.html

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