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the web of life in southern Africa

Pristis pectinata (Smalltooth sawfish)?

Latham, 1794

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Chondrichthyes > Elasmobranchii > Batoidei > Rajiformes > Pristoidei > Pristidae

Pristis pectinata (Smalltooth sawfish) [Illustration by Ann Hecht ]


A slender sawfish with a long narrow, slightly tapering saw, with 21 to 28 (possibly to 34) small teeth on each side. Space between last two saw-teeth on a side is between 2 to 4 times that between the first two teeth. Pectoral fins low and angular, 1st dorsal over pelvic fins, caudal fin without a lower lobe. Colour green, grey or dark brown above, cream below.


To 6.0 m and possibly 7.6 m TL.


East coast, East London to Mozambique; circumtropical.



Inshore, in estuaries and fresh water in large rivers.


Common in northern Natal, breeds in Richards Bay and St. Lucia. Bears 15 to 20 young. Eats small fishes which are killed by a sideways, scythe-like action of the saw; uses its saw to dig out crabs and other invertebrates from the bottom.

Human Impact

Caught by anglers and the Natal shark nets.

Text by Leonard J.V. Compagno, David A. Ebert and Malcolm J. Smale