Common Sawshark, Pristiophorus cirratus (Latham 1794)

Other Names: Common Saw Shark, Common Saw-shark, Doggies, Longnose Sawshark, Saw Dog, Saw Shark, Southern Saw Shark

Common Sawshark, Pristiophorus cirratus. Source: Rudie H. Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved

A small slender blotched or spotted yellowish to brownish sawshark with 5 gill slits on each side of the head, two dorsal fins, and a long tapering rostrum or snout. The rostrum has 19 to 25 pairs of rostral teeth (tooth-like denticles), and paired elongate barbels originating on the underside. In the Common Sawshark, the barbels are slightly closer to the tip of the rostrum than to the mouth.

Video of Common Sawsharks on the New South Wales south coast at a depth of 50 m.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2024, Pristiophorus cirratus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 28 May 2024,

Common Sawshark, Pristiophorus cirratus (Latham 1794)

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Endemic to southern Australia, from Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, to Jurien Bay, Western Australia. Inhabits soft sediment areas on the continental shelf and slope.


Five pairs of lateral gill slits, long, narrow sawshark, snout 27-28% TL, largely lanceolate denticles, two spineless dorsal fins, and no anal fin.

Rostrum long, narrow, and narrowly tapering, length of preoral snout 27 to 29% of total length. Bases of rostral barbels about 1.2 to 1.3 times closer to rostral tip than mouth; distance from rostral barbels to nostrils slightly less or equal to distance from nostrils to first to fourth gill slits. About 9 or 10 large rostral teeth on each side of rostrum in front of rostral barbels, 9 behind them. Distance from mouth to nostrils 1.3 to 1.4 times internarial space. Tooth rows 39 to 49 in upper jaw. Dorsal and pectoral fins covered with denticles in large specimens. Lateral trunk denticles largely unicuspidate. First dorsal-fin origin behind free rear tips of pectoral fins by eye length or slightly less.


Dorsal surface of body with a pattern of dark blotches - mostly darker bands between the pectoral-fin bases, over the gill slits, between the spiracles and below the dorsal fins, and spots (which may be indistinct).


Feeds on small fishes and crustaceans. Raoult et al. (2015) suggest that the Common Sawshark may use its rostrum to sift through the substrate in search of prey.


Reproductive mode: aplacental viviparous (ovoviviparous), with embryos feeding solely on yolk. Females give birth to litters of three to 22 young (average 10 pups) in shallow coastal areas after a 12 month gestation period. At birth, pups measure about 31-34 cm TL. Common Sawsharks may live for more than 15 years. 


Although Common Sawsharks are harvested as bycatch over their entire range, most are taken from Bass Strait in gillnets of mesh-size ranging 6 to 6½ inches or from New South Wales and off eastern Victoria in the South East Trawl Fishery. Also taken in the Southern Shark Fishery and in the Great Australia Bight Trawl Fishery.


A three-mile closure of all Victorian waters to shark fishing provides a refuge for this species.


Welten et al (2015) found that the tooth-like structures along the rostrum develop under the skin of the embryos, aligned with the rostrum surface. As the embryos develop, the "teeth" rotate into lateral position and attach through a pedicel to the rostrum cartilage. As well, saw-teeth are replaced and added to as space becomes available.

Similar Species

The similar Southern Sawshark, Pristiophorus nudipinnis, is uniform brown in colour, and has the rostral barbels positioned closer to the mouth than to the tip of the rostrum.


The specific name is from the Latin icurratus (= curled, having ringlets or tendrils), in reference to the long ventral barbels of this species.

Species Citation

Pristis cirratus Latham, 1794, Trans. Linn. Soc. London 2(25): 281, pls 26(5), 27. Type locality: Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia (as Port Jackson, New Holland).


Bray, D.J. 2024


Atlas of Living Australia

Common Sawshark, Pristiophorus cirratus (Latham 1794)


Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO Species Catalogue. Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125. Rome : FAO Vol. 4(1) pp. 1-249.

Compagno, L.J.V. 1998. Family Pristiophoridae. p. 1233 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. 2 687-1396 pp.

Compagno, L.J.V., Dando, M. & Fowler, S. 2005. A Field Guide to the Sharks of the World. London : Collins 368 pp.

Dulvy, N.K. & Reynolds, J.D. 1997. Evolutionary transitions among egg-laying, live-bearing and maternal inputs in sharks and rays. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, 264: 1309-1315.

Ebert, D.A. & Wilms, H.A. 2013.  Pristiophorus lanae sp. nov., a new sawshark species from the Western North Pacific, with comments on the genus Pristiophorus Müller & Henle, 1837 (Chondrichthyes: Pristiophoridae). Zootaxa 3752(1): 86-100.

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Hudson, R.J., Walker, T.I. & Day, R.W. 2005. Reproductive biology of common sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus) harvested off southern Australia, Appendix 3c. pp. 1‒26 in Walker, T.I. & Hudson, R.J. (eds). Sawshark and elephant fish assessment and bycatch evaluation in the Southern Shark Fishery. Final Report to Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. July 2005. Primary Industries Research Victoria, Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia.

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Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Collingwood : CSIRO Publishing Australia 2, 550 pp.

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Raoult, V., Gaston, T.F. & Williamson, J.E. 2015. Not all sawsharks are equal: species of co-existing sawsharks show plasticity in trophic consumption both within and between species. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 72: 1–7.

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Stead, D.G. 1963. Sharks and Rays of Australian Seas. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 211 pp. 63 figs.

Walker, T.I. 2021. Pristiophorus cirratus (amended version of 2020 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T39327A207778564. Accessed on 06 February 2024.

Walker, T.I., Hudson, R.J. & Gason, A.S. 2005. Catch Evaluation of Target, By-product and By-catch Species Taken by Gillnets and Longlines in the Shark Fishery of South-eastern Australia. Journal of Northwest Atlantic Fishery Science 35: 505-530.

Walker, T.I., Hudson, R.J. & Green, C. 2005. Age and growth of common sawshark, southern sawshark, and elephant fish harvested off southern Australia, Appendix 3b. pp. 1–9 in Walker, T.I. & Hudson, R.J. (eds). Sawshark and elephant fish assessment and bycatch evaluation in the Southern Shark Fishery. Final Report to Fisheries Research and Development Corporation,  Primary Industries Research Victoria, Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia.

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Welten, M., Smith, M.M., Underwood, C. & Johanson, Z. 2015. Evolutionary origins and development of saw-teeth on the sawfish and sawshark rostrum (Elasmobranchii; Chondrichthyes). Royal Society Open Science 2: 150189.

White, W. 2008. Shark Families Heterodontidae to Pristiophoridae. pp. 32-100 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Whitley, G.P. 1940. The Fishes of Australia. Part 1. The sharks, rays, devil-fish, and other primitive fishes of Australia and New Zealand. Sydney : Roy. Zool. Soc. N.S.W. 280 pp. 303 figs.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37023002

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:40-630 m

Fishing:Commercial bycatch

Habitat:Benthic, sandy areas

Max Size:140 cm TL


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CAAB distribution map