Longnose Sawshark (Pristiophorus cirratus)

I don’t think it would be very much fun to have a saw as a mouth, but at least one animal in this world thought it was a good idea. It would make sense that this animal is a shark. After all, sharks try their best to be as terrifying as possible, and what’s more intimidating than a shark with a saw on its face?

Longnose sawsharks live in the waters around Australia, in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They can be found in both coastal areas and in the open ocean, though they prefer spaces with sandy bottoms. Sawsharks are usually found at depths below 40m.

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These sharks look so ridiculous… Image source: http://dantania.blogspot.ca/2013/08/dante-vs-nature-27.html

The most characteristic and recognizable feature of the sawshark is its giant snout. Sawsharks can grow to be 1.37 meters long, and their snouts can make up 30% of that length. That’s a pretty big nose! About halfway down this impressive noggin are two barbels, which help the shark feel its way around the ocean. The sawlike appearance of the sharks’ noses is due to their protruding teeth, which are arranged in an alternating long and short pattern. Sawsharks are a boring combination of yellow, grey, and brown. Though these colours aren’t very flashy, they do help the sharks blend in with the ocean floor, giving them some protection against predators.

Those vicious and undoubtedly strange snouts do serve a purpose — they are used for hunting. The sharks swim close to the ocean floor, their barbels sensing the sandy bottom, and their ampullae of Lorenzini detecting any electric fields made by nearby prey. Once they have found a tasty morsel, the sharks slam it with their snouts, immobilizing the victim.

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Another great picture of a longnose sawshark and it’s impressive nose. Image source: http://www.nhmsharksandrays.co.uk/the-fish.html

Longnose sawsharks are slightly unusual for sharks in that they often form schools. They breed every two years, and give birth to 3-22 live young. You might think that it would be incredibly painful to give birth to sharks that have rows of sharp teeth sticking out of their snouts, and you would be right. Thankfully, sawsharks have a solution to this — when the young are born their teeth are folded in, and only straighten out after they’ve left their mother’s belly.

The conservation story of the longnose sawshark is a happy one. They were once classified as Near Threatened, but have recently been downgraded to Least Concern. Protection from fishing has helped these sharks tremendously, and these days they seem to be doing quite well.

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