Common name: Sawfishes



A small group of large shark-like rays with a long toothy saw-like rostrum covered in electroreceptors used to hunt prey.

All five species are highly threatened with extinction: three are Critically Endangered (smalltooth sawfish Pristis pectinata, largetooth sawfish Pristis pristis, and green sawfish Pristis zijsron); two are Endangered (narrow sawfish Anoxypristis cuspidata, and dwarf sawfish Pristis clavata) (Dulvy et al. 2014).

A key to species can be found in Faria et al, (2012).

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Sawfishes, PRISTIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 22 Jun 2024,

More Info

Family Taxonomy

Two genera and five species of sawfishes are recognized from the tropical Atlantic, Indian and western Pacific Oceans. Four species in two genera are known from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Occur worldwide in tropical regions, with species living on or close to the bottom in coastal marine areas and estuaries and are often found in fresh water.

Family Size

Reach 3-8 m.

Family Feeding

Feed on small fishes, which they disable with their saw-like rostral extensions. 

Family Reproduction

Species are aplacental viviparous(ovoviviparous), with the embryos developing from eggs that hatch within the uterus before birth.

Family Conservation

IUCN Red List: Endangered and Critically Endangered.


Bray, D.J. 2017


Bigelow, H.B. & Schroeder, W.C. (1953). Sawfishes, guitarfishes, skates and rays. in Parr, A.E. (ed.) Fishes of the western North Atlantic. Mem. Sears Fndn. Mar. Res. 1(2): 1–514 figs 1–117

Compagno, L.J.V. & Last, P.R. (1999). Families Pristidae, Rhinidae, Rhinobatidae, Platyrhinidae, pp. 1410–1432, in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds) The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes.  Rome : FAO Vol. 3 pp. 1397–2068

Dulvy, N.K., Davidson, L.NK., Kyne, P.M., Simpfendorfer, C.A., Harrison, L.R., Carlson, J.K. and Fordham, S.V. 2016. Ghosts of the coast: global extinction risk and conservation of sawfishes. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 26(1): 134-153. PDF Abstract

Faria, V. 2007. Taxonomic review, phylogeny, and geographical population structure of the sawfishes (Chondrichthyes, Pristiformes). PhD Dissertation, Iowa State University, USA

Faria VV, McDavitt MT, Charvet P, Wiley TR, Simpfendorfer CA & Naylor GJP (2012) Species delineation and global population structure of Critically Endangered sawfishes (Pristidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 167: 136–164. pdf

Field IC, Carters R, Buckworth RC, Meekan MG & Bradshaw CJA (2008) Distribution and abundance of Glyphis and sawfishes in northern Australia and their potential interactions with commercial fisheries. Report to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra, Australia

Andrew T. Fields, A.T., K.A. Feldheim, G.R. Poulakis & D.D. Chapman. 2015. Facultative parthenogenesis in a critically endangered wild vertebrate. Current Biology 25(11): pR446–R447 Abstract

Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Canberra : CSIRO Australia 513 pp. 84 pls figs

Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. 2nd edition. Canberra : CSIRO Australia 644 pp. 91 pls figs

Last, P.R., White, W.T. & Naylor, G.J.P. 2016. 8. Sawfishes. Family Pristidae, pp. 58-64. In: Last, P.R., White, W.T., Carvalho, M.R. de, Séret, B., Stehmann, M.F.W. & Naylor, G.J.P. (eds.) Rays of the World. Clayton South, Victoria : CSIRO Publishing 790 pp.

Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World.New Jersey : John Wiley & Sons 601pp.

Peverell, S.C. 2006. Distribution of sawfishes (Pristidae) in the Queensland Gulf of Carpenteria, Australia, with notes on sawfish ecology. Env. Biol. Fish. 73: 391–402.

Peverell, S.C. 2009. Sawfish (Pristidae) of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland, Australia. MSc Thesis (James Cook University).

Phillips, N. 2012. Conservation genetics of Pristis sawfishes in Australian waters. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

Wueringer, B.E. 2012. Electroreception in Elasmobranchs: Sawfish as a Case Study. Brain Behav Evol 80: 97-107

Wueringer, B.E., Squire,L.J. & Collin, S.P. 2009. The biology of extinct and extant sawfish (Batoidea: Sclerorhynchidae and Pristidae). Rev. Fish Biol. Fish. 19: 445–464.

Wueringer, B.E., Peverell, S.C., Seymour, J.E., Squire, L.J., Kajiura, S.M. & Collin, S.P. 2011. Sensory systems in sawfishes: Part 1 the ampullae of Lorenzini. Brain Behav. Evol. 78: 139–149.

Wueringer, B., Peverell, S.C., Seymour, J., Squire, L., Collin, S.P. 2011. Sensory Systems in Sawfishes. 2. The Lateral Line. Brain Behav. Evol. 78: 150-161.