What Does a Sawfish Use Its Saw for?
The rostrum, often referred to as the “saw”, is used during feeding and for defense. The long, saw-like snout of a sawfish is used to attack other fish for food. The saw of an adult sawfish is about four feet (1.2 meters) long, and is armed with sharp teeth.
The sawfish swiftly attacks schools of smaller fish, as it darts among the prey with powerful, slashing strokes of its saw that kills or stuns the victims. The sawfish then feasts on the prey at its leisure. The flat saw is also used for digging up shellfish from the sandy ocean bottom. However, the idea that the sawfish uses its saw to cut up larger fish, or to attack boats, is not true.
Scientists thought that sawfish used their saw to probe the sea bottom for food. But a Cairns researcher has found that these large (5 meters or more) and endangered fish actually use the saw to locate and dismember free-swimming fish – using a sixth sense that detects electric fields.
The sawfish saw—an elongation of their head with teeth along its sides—provides this sixth sense. It is packed with thousands of tiny pore-like organs which can detect the minute electric fields surrounding living organisms. And it can also be used to attack its prey.