The Swimming Dead

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Sawfish may have the appearance of a threatening creature from a Jules Verne novel, but don’t let their razor sharp snouts fool you — they are actually the ones being threatened.

World Animal Day may have passed but that doesn’t mean the celebrations have to stop. In fact, because there are so many amazing animals out there — and so many ENDANGERED — we’re celebrating World Animal Day all month at VAKOVAKO. And today is all about one of the stranger-looking species we share our planet with — the sawfish.

A shark? A fish? A ray? What exactly is a sawfish?

  • If we needed to get technical about it, sawfish belong to the ray group. But they aren’t just rays — they’re elasmobranchs; a fancy way to say they're also related to sharks and skates because they have cartilage instead of bone.
  • Dating back nearly 100 million years, sawfish are literally swimming fossils. They still retain a similar appearance to their Cretaceous period ancestors, the onchopristis.
  • Many sawfish, like the Largetooth sawfish and the Neonate sawfish, have the ability to also live in freshwater or brackish water.
  • Their saw-like snout, called the rostum, can reach up to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) long. Though it’s razor edging may look like teeth, their real teeth are actually located in their mouths. Rather, the “teeth” on their rostrum are modified scales.
  • The sawfish has appeared in legends worldwide. Australian aboriginals believed that the saw carved out the land. The Kuna people believed that the sawfish protected humans from sea monsters. Images of the sawfish have also been considered a symbol for good fortune in America, New Guinea, and Germany.
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