My friend and shark advocate colleague, David Shiffman, ran an interesting post in his blog, Southern Fried Science, on the Largetooth Sawfish and its new inclusion on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is an amazing member of the elasmobranch family. Its "saw" is an elongated rostrum or snout-like projection, with a row of formidable teeth on each side. The sawfish uses its appendage to lethal effect, taking a quick swing at passing prey or using it to dig in the sand for small animals hiding there.
During my tenure as a Dive Team Leader at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA, I had the opportunity to get up close to a sawfish the Aquarium had on display in its Shark Lagoon exhibit. It is a striking, awesome animal to see. One always had to approach slowly and carefully from the side, making sure the sawfish was comfortable with your presence - the last thing you wanted to do was to make it feel cornered or threatened in any way and have it lash out with its saw.
The Aquarium was able to score a first in aquarium veterinary medicine, when the sawfish's rostrum was snapped by some aggressive sand tiger sharks. A team, led by Dr. Lance Adams, was able to reattach the broken saw - glued and held in place by wooden splints. Well, okay, they were Popsicle sticks, but it worked and the sawfish fully recovered from a wound that would normally be considered fatal - particularly if it occurred in the wild.
The largetooth sawfish is plagued by a loss of habitat and by ending up as bycatch - a result of its saw getting entangled in fishing nets.
"The Endangered Species Act protections, the result of a petition by WildEarth Guardians, take effect on August 11. The U.S. will also work with nations where these animals are found to encourage similar protections. 'By adding largetooth sawfish to the Endangered Species List, the U.S. government is taking an important step toward preventing extinction of this remarkable animal and raising awareness about the plight of all sawfish species,' says Sonja Fordham [Shark Advocates International]."
Read about the largetooth sawfish in Southern Fried Science.