Smalltooth Sawfish


Scientific name

Pristis pectinata




Up to 5.1 meters (16.5 feet)


Approximately 30 years

Did you know?

The smalltooth sawfish was the first marine fish species to be listed on the Endangered Species Act in the United States

About Smalltooth Sawfishs

Smalltooth sawfish live in shallow, tropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Sawfish are named for their distinct rostrum – a long, flat snout, which is edged with teeth. Female sawfish give live birth and the young are called ‘pups,’ which are born with fully developed saws. The saws of the newborn sawfish are very flexible and covered in a thick gelatinous material to avoid injuring the mother at birth. Pups are born at approximately 0.6 m  (2 feet) in length and will grow to twice that size in their first year of life. In areas where strict conservation measures have been enacted, such as the Florida Everglades and the Bahamas, populations of smalltooth sawfish have started to increase, giving hope for future recovery of the species. Because they grow rapidly and mature at between 7 and 11 years of age, the species has a chance to come back from the brink of extinction.


Smalltooth sawfish mostly eat fishes, but also consume invertebrates such as shrimps and crabs.


Once a wide-ranging species in the western and eastern Atlantic Ocean, the smalltooth sawfish was once found as far north as New Jersey in the United States and as far south as southern Brazil in the western Atlantic Ocean. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, they occurred from Mauritania to Angola and were prevalent in coastal estuaries, but sawfishes are now extremely rare throughout most of the eastern Atlantic. The current verified distribution of smalltooth sawfish includes just The Bahamas, Cuba, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mexico, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and the United States. They may still exist in Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Panama, Suriname, and Venezuela

Fun facts

  • Although they look more like sharks, sawfish are actually rays. All rays have gills on the undersides of their bodies, and their wide pectoral fins extend to the head, just behind the gills. The gills of sharks are on the sides of the head, and the pectoral fins are located well behind the head.

Smalltooth Sawfish photo gallery

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