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Sawfish may look somewhat like sharks, but with wide pectoral fins and flatter bodies, they are actually modified rays. Their rostrum (snout), instead of teeth, has specialized denticles which are a type of scales, that they use to stun and injure small fish before eating them. Smalltooth sawfish grow to an average of 18 feet long, 25% of which is their rostrum. They prefer bays, estuaries and rivers, but have been found in deep water and in freshwater habitats.

Smalltooth sawfish. Photo © John Dickinson
Smalltooth sawfish. Photo © John Dickinson

Habitat destruction and overfishing have succeeded in eradicating the smalltooth sawfish from the majority of its former range. The last remaining population in U.S. waters is off south Florida, a sad remnant of a population that once ranged from North Carolina to Texas. On April 1, 2003 the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service placed the smalltooth sawfish on the Endangered Species List, making it the first marine fish species to receive protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Read the entire smalltooth sawfish species profile