The five species of sawfishes are globally endangered in part because their rostra (snouts) are prized trophy items. The Largetooth is now extinct in U.S. waters and the Smalltooth, once found from New York to Texas, is now largely restricted to southern Florida.
So what we have here are the rostra, the “saws” of two sawfishes that are found in the United States: the Largetooth Sawfish and the Smalltooth Sawfish. The Largetooth Sawfish, appropriately enough, has larger teeth than does the Smalltooth. Both of these species are critically endangered species worldwide and are on the Endangered Species List in the United States, the first such marine fishes in the United States. The Smalltooth is found only on the southern tip of Florida now, the remnants of a sad range that once went from New York all the way to Brazil. The Largetooth was last seen in U.S. waters about 50 years ago and is essentially extinct in U.S. waters right now.
As a group, the sawfishes, of which there are five species worldwide, are endangered throughout their ranges largely because these animals are found very close to where humans live. They like to live in estuaries – the brackish water areas between freshwater and marine areas – they move up into rivers and of course all of these locations are close to where humans have habitation: where we fish, where we throw our garbage, where we put up our dams. So as a result, sawfishes are in some trouble around the world because of human activity.
Director, Florida Program for Shark Research
Florida Museum of Natural History
Top: Smalltooth Sawfish (Pristis pectinata)
Collected in the Gulf of Mexico, mid-1900s
Bottom: Largetooth Sawfish (Pristis pristis)
Collected in Panama, mid-1900s
- Species profile: Smalltooth Sawfish (Pristis pectinata)
- Species profile: Largetooth Sawfish (Pristis pristis)
- Read: Conserving Florida’s smalltooth sawfish