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Pristis pristis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Freshwater Saw Fish; Largetooth Sawfish; Leichhardt's Sawfish; Leichhardts Sawfish; Northern Sawfish; Small-toothed Sawfish; Smalltooth Sawfish; Wide Sawfish; Pristiopsis leichhardti Whitley, 1945; Pristis microdon Latham, 1794; Squalus pristis Linnaeus, 1758; Common Sawfish

Life   Vertebrata   Fish   Pristidae   Pristis

Pristis pristis
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Pristis pristis

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Pristis pristis
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Pristis pristis
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Pristis pristis
Pristis pristis
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Pristis pristis

Main identification features
  • saw: 17-20 teeth rows
  • dorsal fin origin before pelvic origin
  • c: with lower lobe
Body shark-like with two nearly equal-sized dorsal fins; head flattened; 17-20 teeth on each side of saw-like snout; a large spiracle behind each eye; pectoral fins broad and triangular; tail fin shark-like with large upper lobe and small, but pronounced lower lobe; origin of first dorsal fin well forward of pelvic fin origin.

Dark grey to golden brown, whitish on ventral surface; specimens in freshwater are pale grey.

Grows to about 650 cm and estimated weight of 590 Kg.

Inhabits shallow bays and estuaries, also entering rivers.

Depth: 1-10 m.

Eastern Pacific and the east and west Atlantic; in our region from the southern Gulf of California to Peru.

The status of the species in the eastern Pacific is questionable. We treat it as P. pristis, which elsewhere occurs in the Atlantic. However, it may be a separate endemic species P. zephyreus.

While there are reports of a second species of sawfish, P. pectinata, in the eastern Pacific, that has yet to be unequivocally demonstrated. P. pectinata lacks a definite lower lobe on its tail fin, has 25-32 teeth on each side of the saw, has narrow, angular pectoral fins, and has the origin of its first dorsal fin directly over that of the pelvic fins.

Abundance: Common.
Cites: Not listed.
Climate Zone: Northern Subtropical (Cortez Province + Sinaloan Gap); Northern Tropical (Mexican Province to Nicaragua + Revillagigedos); Equatorial (Costa Rica to Ecuador + Galapagos, Clipperton, Cocos, Malpelo).
Depth Range Max: 10 m.
Depth Range Min: 1 m.
Diet: mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs); mobile benthic gastropods/bivalves; bony fishes.
Eastern Pacific Range: Northern limit=25; Southern limit=-4; Western limit=-109; Eastern limit=-78; Latitudinal range=29; Longitudinal range=31.
Egg Type: Live birth; No pelagic larva; No pelagic phase.
Feeding Group: Carnivore.
FishBase Habitat: Bentho-Pelagic.
Global Endemism: East Pacific + Atlantic (East +/or West); Transisthmian (East Pacific + Atlantic of Central America); East Pacific + all Atlantic (East+West); TEP non-endemic; All species.
Habitat: Beach; Estuary; Mud; Soft bottom (mud, sand,gravel, beach, estuary & mangrove); Soft bottom only; Sand & gravel; Freshwater.
Inshore Offshore: Inshore; Inshore Only.
IUCN Red List: Critically endangered; Listed.
Length Max: 650 cm.
Regional Endemism: Continent only; Continent; Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP) non-endemic; Eastern Pacific non-endemic; All species.
Residency: Resident.
Salinity: Brackish; Freshwater; Marine.
Water Column Position: Bottom; Bottom only;

Scientific source:

Links to other sites

  • Béarez, P., 1996., Lista de los Peces Marinos del Ecuador Continental., Revista de Biologia Tropical, 44:731-741.
  • Candanedo , C. and D'Croz, L., 1983., Ecosistema acuático del lago Bayano: un embalse tropical., Publicación Técnica IRHE, Dirección de Ingenieria, Departamento de Hidrometeorología, Panamá., :38pp.
  • Compagno , L. J. V. and Cook, S. F., 1995., The exploitation and conservation of freshwater elasmobranchs: status of taxa and prospects for the future., Journal of Aquariculture and Aquatic Sciences, 7:62-90.
  • Compagno, L.J.V., 1999., Checklist of living elasmobranchs. In Hamlett W.C. (ed.) Sharks, skates, and rays: the biology of elasmobranch fishes., The John Hopkins University Press:471-498.
  • Findley, L.T., Hendrickx, M.E., Brusca, R.C., van der Heiden, A.M., Hastings, P.A., Torre, J., 2003., Diversidad de la Macrofauna Marina del Golfo de California, Mexico., CD-ROM versión 1.0. Projecto de la Macrofauna del Golfo .  Derechos reservados de los autores y Conservación Internacional.
  • Fischer , W. , Krup , F. , Schneider , W. , Sommer , C. , Carpenter , K. E. and Niem, V. H., 1995., Guia FAO para la Identificacion de Especies de para los fines de la Pesca. Pacifico Centro-Oriental. Volumen II. Vertebrados - Parte 1., FAO2:647-1200.
  • Jimenez-Prado, P., Béarez, P., 2004., Peces marinos del Ecuador continental / Marine fishes of continental Ecuador., SIMBIOE/NAZCA/IFEA tomo 1 y 2.
  • Jordan , D.S. and Evermann, B.W., 1896., The fishes of North and Middle America: a descriptive catalogue of the species of fish-like vertebrates found in the waters of North America, north of the Isthmus of Panama. Part I., Bull. U.S. Nat. Mus., 47:1-1240.
  • Linnaeus, C., 1758., Systema Naturae, Ed. X. (Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata.) Holmiae., Systema Nat. ed. 10, 1:1-824.
  • Lopez , M. I. and Bussing, W. A., 1982., Lista provisional de los peces marinos de la Costa Rica., Revista de Biologia Tropical, 30(1):5-26.


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Following modified from Australian Faunal Directory
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http://biodiversity.org.au/afd/taxa/4fc5aabd-2174-4c12-87ff-5e69007ecea2 ---> https://biodiversity.org.au/afd/taxa/4fc5aabd-2174-4c12-87ff-5e69007ecea2
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts

Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory

You are here:  Environment home » Biodiversity » ABRS » AFD » ANIMALIA (Kingdom) » CHORDATA (Phylum) » VERTEBRATA (Subphylum) » GNATHOSTOMATA (Higher Taxon) » PISCES (Higher Taxon) » CHONDRICHTHYES (Class) » ELASMOBRANCHII (Subclass) » PRISTIFORMES (Order) » PRISTIDAE (Family) » Pristis Linck, 1790 (Genus) » Pristis pristis Linnaeus, 1758

Species Pristis pristis Linnaeus, 1758


Regional Maps

External Links

CAAB : 37025003 Taxon concept Pristis_pristis last modified 2013-02-25 11:47:07.166

Species Pristis pristis Linnaeus, 1758

Freshwater Sawfish , Freshwater Saw Fish, Largetooth Sawfish, Leichhardt's Sawfish, Leichhardts Sawfish, Northern Sawfish, Small-toothed Sawfish, Smalltooth Sawfish, Wide Sawfish

Compiler and date details

February 2013 - Douglass F. Hoese


Taxonomic Decision for Synonymy


Generic Combinations



A recent study by Faria et al . (2012) found no differences between various populations of Pristis pristis and Pristis microdon , resulting in the inclusion of Pristis microdon as a junior synonym to Pristis pristis . The species was listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN in 2012 for Pristis pristis from the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific and Critically Endangered for the Indo-Pacific populations in 2006 (as Pristis microdon ). In Australia, the species is listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 under the name Pristis microdon .




Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia

Extra Distribution Information

From the Fitzroy, Durack and Ord rivers, WA, the Adelaide, Victoria and Daly rivers, NT and the Gilbert, Mitchell, Norman and Leichhardt rivers, QLD; one specimen from off Cape Naturaliste, WA; tropical, circumglobal

IBRA and IMCRA regions (map not available)
drainage basins and coastal and oceanic zones (map not available)


NT, Qld, WA: Arnhem Coast (ARC), Arnhem Plateau (ARP), Central Arnhem (CA), Central Kimberley (CK), Cape York Peninsula (CYP), Daly Basin (DAB), Darwin Coastal (DAC), Dampierland (DL), Einasleigh Uplands (EIU), Gulf Fall and Uplands (GFU), Gulf Coastal (GUC), Gulf Plains (GUP), Mount Isa Inlier (MII), Northern Kimberley (NK), Ord Victoria Plain (OVP), Pine Creek (PCK), Tiwi Cobourg (TIW), Victoria Bonaparte (VB)


Northern Shelf Province (25), Northwest Shelf Transition (26), Northwest Shelf Province (27), Southwest Shelf Province (31)

Original AFD Distribution Data

Australian Region

  • Australia
    • Northern Territory: Gulf of Carpentaria, N Gulf, N coast, N coastal
    • Queensland: Gulf of Carpentaria, N Gulf
    • Western Australia: Lower W coast, N coast, N coastal, NW coast

Ecological Descriptors

Estuary, freshwater.

Extra Ecological Information

Juveniles are found in freshwater and the upper reaches of estuaries; they move to the sea (to depths of 25 m) after about about 3 years.


General References

Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia . Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls. [44] (as Pristis microdon )

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia . Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp. [330] (as Pristis microdon )

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. [1415] (as Pristis microdon )

Faria, V.V., McDavitt, M.T. Charvet, P., Wiley, T.R., Simpfendorfer, C.A. & Naylor, G.J.P. 2012. Species delineation and global population structure of critically endangered sawfishes (Pristidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 167 : 136-164 [published online 16 December 2012, journal issue January 2013]

Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia . Canberra : CSIRO Australia 513 pp. 84 pls. [364] (as Pristis microdon )

Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia . Collingwood : CSIRO Publishing Australia 2, 550 pp. [297] (as Pristis microdon )

McCulloch, A.R. 1929. A check-list of the fishes recorded from Australia. Part I. Memoirs of the Australian Museum 5 : 1–144 [21]

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management . Sydney : J.R. Merrick 409 pp. figs 280 col. figs. [38] (as Pristis microdon )

Thorburn, D.C., Morgan, D.L., Rowland, A.J. & Gill, H.S. 2007. Freshwater sawfish Pristis microdon Latham, 1794 (Chondrichthys: Pristidae) in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Zootaxa 1471 : 27-41 [27] (as Pristis microdon )

Whitley, G.P. 1964. A survey of Australian Ichthyology. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 89 (1): 11-127 [31] (115, as Pristiopsis leichhardti )

Whitty, J.M., Phillips, N.M., Morgan, D.L., Chaplin, J.A., Thorburn, D.C. & Peverell, S.C. 2008. Habitat associations of Freshwater Sawfish ( Pristis microdon ) and Northern River Shark ( Glyphis sp. C): including genetic analysis of P. microdon across northern Australia. Report to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Australian Government. 75 pp.


Common Name References

Allen, G.R. 1982. Inland Fishes of Western Australia . Perth : Western Australian Museum 86 pp. 6 figs 20 pls. [62] (Northern Sawfish)

Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia . Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls. [44] (Wide Sawfish)

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. [1415] (FAO) (Largetooth Sawfish)

Daley, R.K., Stevens, J.D., Last, P.R. & Yearsley, G.K. 2002. Field Guide to Australian Sharks & Rays . Hobart : CSIRO Marine Research 84 pp. [75] (Leichhardt's Sawfish)

Lake, J.S. 1978. Australian Freshwater Fishes . Melbourne : Thomas Nelson 160 pp. 140 figs. [12] (Freshwater Saw Fish)

Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia . Canberra : CSIRO Australia 513 pp. 84 pls. [364] ( Freshwater Sawfish , Smalltooth Sawfish)

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management . Sydney : J.R. Merrick 409 pp. figs 280 col. figs. [38] (Leichhardts Sawfish, Small-toothed Sawfish)

Seafood Services Australia 2008. Australian Fish Names Standard. http://www.fishnames.com.au/. ( Freshwater Sawfish )


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
16-Apr-2012 25-Feb-2013 MODIFIED
11-Mar-2010 MODIFIED

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