Despite the shark-like appearance of their bodies, sawfishes are actually members of the ray family. A sawfish can be easily recognized by its saw-like rostrum, which is long and narrow, with a row of modified, tooth-like scales on either side. The longcomb sawfish will use its rostrum to help it hunt or forage for food. This sawfish feeds primarily on slow moving, schooling fish – it will first swim alongside its prey and then strike it with a sudden swipe of its toothed rostrum. This sawfish may also use its rostrum to stir up the sandy bottom to find bottom-dwelling crustaceans and shellfish.
  • Size

    18 feet (550 cm) to 23.9 feet (730 cm)
  • Diet

    Slow schooling fishes, such as mullet
  • Range

    Indo-West Pacific
  • Habitat

    Mainly bottom dwelling, found in shallow bays, lagoons and estuaries

Physical Characteristics


  • Common length of 18 feet (550 cm), with a maximum length of 23.9 feet (730 cm).

Body Composition

  • Heavy, shark like body; very flat on ventral side.
  • Long, narrow rostrum is common to all sawfish. In this species, the “saw” is the longest of all, reaching a maximum length of 5.4 feet (164.5 cm).
  • Typically 25-34 rostal teeth (actually modified dermal dentricles) on either side of the saw.


  • Displays countershading; dark olive or grey on dorsal side and pale yellow or white underneath.


Animal Fact

Sawfishes are particularly susceptible to being captured as bycatch, because their long, toothed rostrums are easily ensnared in fishing nets. Sawfishes are listed as “Critically Endangered” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

Diet / Feeding


  • Diet consists primarily of slow schooling fishes, such as mullet.


  • Stuns prey by quick swipes of the saw.
  • Shellfish and crustaceans are also consumed; sawfish will use its saw to sweep these animals out of the sand.


Range / Habitat


  • Occurs in the Indo-West Pacific, Australia and Papua New Guinea, eastern coast of Africa north to the Red Sea, as well as China and south to New South Wales.


  • Mainly bottom dwelling, found in shallow bays, lagoons and estuaries. Has been found at depths up to 131 feet (40 m), but 1 to 16 feet (1 to 5 m) seems to be most common.

Reproduction & Growth

  • It has been suggested (Grant, 1978) that adult males will use their saws in dominance and mating battles.

Conservation Status

  • “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Also known as the “green” sawfish and the “narrowsnout” sawfish.
  • Vulnerable to nets; both fishing and shark control nets surrounding beaches.
  • Predators include tiger and bull sharks, as well as freshwater crocodiles.


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