To see photographs of the Longnose Sawshark (Pristiophorus
cirratus) click here.
Longnose Sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus)
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© 2002 Kelvin Aitken.
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Taxonomic name (of species shown above): Pristiophorus
The most obvious feature of the sawsharks are their elongated blade-like
snouts studded with teeth of various sizes. These unusual creatures, ranging
from 80-140 cm, are rarely seen by divers but they are sometimes caught
in gill nets set off beaches and taken seasonally by commercial trawlers.
They are sold as Red Dog in some areas or they become part
of that vaguely described product known as flake.
Ranging from the shallows of the southern coast to 300400 m deep
on the continental shelf off Queensland, t here are four species of sawshark
in Australian waters. The Southern Sawshark enters shallow bays and estuaries
in Tasmania and inhabits the southern coast, from the Victorian to the
Western Australian border. The Longnose Sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus)
or Common Sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus) is found only in Eastern Australia.
Sawsharks are easily confused with sawfish, which also have an elongated
snout with teeth-like spikes and a similar body shape. There are two obvious
differences: first are the tendrils on the snout of sawsharks which are
missing on sawfish; secondly sawsharks have gills on the sides of their
heads like most sharks, while the sawfish, being types of rays, have their
gills underneath their heads.
The sawsharks tendrils, which are found about halfway along the
length of their snout or saw, are used to dislodge hidden
prey in sandy or silty areas or to slash at passing fish. To prevent damage
to the mother, sawsharks have their replaceable saw teeth folded back
until they are born.