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Biology and ecology of sawfishes

Adult female smalltooth sawfish Pristis pectinata tagged with an archival satellite tag off the Florida Keys. Photo: Dean Grubbs


Biology and ecology of sawfishes


Given the substantial declines experienced by all 5 species and their dramatically reduced ranges, sawfishes are among the most threatened fish in the world. Most of these declines likely resulted from bycatch due to the species’ elongated, toothed rostrum which makes them susceptible to entanglement in gill nets and other coastal fisheries gear. Since bycatch is often so poorly documented, the declines may have been worse than once thought in some regions, and the prospects for recovery even more dire. As a result, most species are poorly understood and all species are currently listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the Pristidae has been listed as the most threatened elasmobranch family by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group. In response to this situation, research and conservation efforts have expanded tremendously over the last decade and have provided new insights into the distribution, biology, and ecology of sawfishes worldwide.


This Theme Section explores the current status of the species and features information on a variety of topics such as telemetry, integrative multisensor tagging, feeding and trophic dynamics, physiology, sensory biology, reproductive biology, population genetics, conservation, and management. It includes papers presented as part of a symposium of the same title at the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, American Elasmobranch Society Annual Meeting, July 6–10, 2016, in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.


Articles belonging to this Theme Section were published upon completion in the respective volume of ESR. They were listed below as well as on the contents page of the respective volume of publication.


Date of completion: June 2019


Organizers: Dean Grubbs, Gregg R. Poulakis

Editors: Mike Bruford, Steven Cooke, Brendan Godley, Dean Grubbs (Guest Editor), Eduardo Martins, Gregg Poulakis (Guest Editor)


Poulakis GR, Grubbs RD

OVERVIEW: Biology and ecology of sawfishes: global status of research and future outlook

ESR 39:77-90 | Full text in pdf format


Reis-Filho JA, Freitas RHA, Loiola M, Leite L, Soeiro G, Oliveira HHQ, Sampaio CLS, Nunes JACC, Leduc AOHC

Traditional fisher perceptions on the regional disappearance of the largetooth sawfish Pristis pristis from the central coast of Brazil

ESR 29:189-200 | Full text in pdf format


Simpfendorfer CA, Kyne PM, Noble TH, Goldsbury J, Basiita RK, Lindsay R, Shields A, Perry C, Jerry DR

Environmental DNA detects Critically Endangered largetooth sawfish in the wild

ESR 30:109-116 | Full text in pdf format


Jabado RW, Al Baharna RA, Al Ali SR, Al Suwaidi KO, Al Blooshi AY, Al Dhaheri SS

Is this the last stand of the Critically Endangered green sawfish Pristis zijsron in the Arabian Gulf?

ESR 32:265-275 | Full text in pdf format

White WT, Appleyard SA, Kyne PM, Mana RR

Sawfishes in Papua New Guinea: a preliminary investigation into their status and level of exploitation

ESR 32:277-291 | Full text in pdf format

Phillips NM, Fearing A, Morgan DL

Genetic bottlenecks in Pristis sawfishes in northern Australian waters

ESR 32:363-372 | Full text in pdf format

Poulakis GR, Urakawa H, Stevens PW, DeAngelo JA, Timmers AA, Grubbs RD, Fisk AT, Olin JA

Sympatric elasmobranchs and fecal samples provide insight into the trophic ecology of the smalltooth sawfish

ESR 32:491-506 | Full text in pdf format


Seitz JC, Hoover JJ

NOTE: Taxonomic resolution of sawfish rostra from two private collections

ESR 32:525-532 | Full text in pdf format


Moore ABM

REVIEW: Are guitarfishes the next sawfishes? Extinction risk and an urgent call for conservation action

ESR 34:75-88 | Full text in pdf format


Whitty JM, Keleher J, Ebner BC, Gleiss AC, Simpfendorfer CA, Morgan DL

Habitat use of a Critically Endangered elasmobranch, the largetooth sawfish Pristis pristis, in an intermittently flowing riverine nursery

ESR 34:211-227 | Full text in pdf format

Manir Feitosa L, Barbosa Martins AP, Silva Nunes JL

NOTE: Sawfish (Pristidae) records along the Eastern Amazon coast

ESR 34:229-234 | Full text in pdf format


Morgan DL, Ebner BC, Allen MG, Gleiss AC, Beatty SJ, Whitty JM

Habitat use and site fidelity of neonate and juvenile green sawfish Pristis zijsron in a nursery area in Western Australia

ESR 34:235-249 | Full text in pdf format


Wueringer BE

Sawfish captures in the Queensland Shark Control Program, 1962 to 2016

ESR 34:293-300 | Full text in pdf format


Huston CA, Stevens PW, Blaxton RM, Tolley SG, Scharer RM, Tornwall BM, Poulakis GR

Diel movements of juvenile smalltooth sawfish: implications for defining the size of a nursery hotspot

ESR 34:311-322 | Full text in pdf format


Feldheim KA, Fields AT, Chapman DD, Scharer RM, Poulakis GR

Insights into reproduction and behavior of the smalltooth sawfish Pristis pectinata

ESR 34:463-471 | Full text in pdf format


Scharer RM, Stevens PW, Shea CP, Poulakis GR

All nurseries are not created equal: large-scale habitat use patterns in two smalltooth sawfish nurseries

ESR 34:473-492 | Full text in pdf format


Bakenhaster MD, Bullard SA, Curran SS, Kritsky DC, Leone EH, Partridge LK, Ruiz CF, Scharer RM, Poulakis GR

Parasite component community of smalltooth sawfish off Florida: diversity, conservation concerns, and research applications

ESR 35:47-58 | Full text in pdf format


Leeney RH, Mana RR, Dulvy NK

Fishers’ ecological knowledge of sawfishes in the Sepik and Ramu rivers, northern Papua New Guinea

ESR 36:15-26 | Full text in pdf format


Elhassan IS

Occurrence of the green sawfish Pristis zijsron in the Sudanese Red Sea with observations on reproduction

ESR 36:41-47 | Full text in pdf format


Prohaska BK, Bethea DM, Poulakis GR, Scharer RM, Knotek R, Carlson JK, Grubbs RD

Physiological stress in the smalltooth sawfish: effects of ontogeny, capture method, and habitat quality

ESR 36:121-135 | Full text in pdf format


Bonfil R, Ricaño-Soriano M, Mendoza-Vargas OU, Méndez-Loeza I, Pérez-Jiménez JC, Bolaño-Martínez N, Palacios-Barreto P

Tapping into local ecological knowledge to assess the former importance and current status of sawfishes in Mexico

ESR 36:213-228 | Full text in pdf format


Green ME, D’Anastasi BR, Hobbs JPA, Feldheim K, McAuley R, Peverell S, Stapley J, Johnson G, Appleyard SA, White WT, Simpfendorfer CA, van Herwerden L

Mixed-marker approach suggests maternal philopatry and sex-biased behaviours of narrow sawfish Anoxypristis cuspidata

ESR 37:45-54 | Full text in pdf format


Hollensead LD, Grubbs RD, Carlson JK, Bethea DM

Assessing residency time and habitat use of juvenile smalltooth sawfish using acoustic monitoring in a nursery habitat

ESR 37:119-131 | Full text in pdf format


Cuevas JM, García M, Hozbor N, Faria VV, Paesch L

Tracing the occurrence of the Critically Endangered smalltooth sawfish Pristis

pectinata at its southernmost distribution in the Southwest Atlantic Ocean

ESR 38:1-9 | Full text in pdf format


Brame AB, Wiley TR, Carlson JK, Fordham SV, Grubbs RD, Osborne J, Scharer RM, Bethea DM, Poulakis GR

REVIEW: Biology, ecology, and status of the smalltooth sawfish Pristis pectinata in the USA

ESR 39:9-23 | Full text in pdf format