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Next Tuesday, October 17th is the first annual International Sawfish Day!

There are only five species of sawfish in the world – Dwarf, Knifetooth, Smalltooth, Largetooth and Green sawfish. The largest being the smalltooth sawfish, which can grow up to 25 feet!

Sawfish are considered the most threatened group of Elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) in the world. Here at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, we have two resident green sawfish, who live in the Dangerous Lagoon exhibit.

Green sawfish are more closely related to stingrays than sharks. They are a modified ray with a shark-like body, and can grow over 15 feet in length! Commonly mistaken for swordfish, sawfish are elasmobranchs meaning their skeleton is made of cartilage (like our ears and nose), and not bone. Our female green sawfish is easily our largest animal at the Aquarium, weighing in at over 400 pounds over 14 feet long from end to end! (Don’t know which one is female, and which one is male? When viewing the sawfish from within the Dangerous Lagoon tunnel, look for the presence of claspers. These male reproductive organs are modifications of the pelvic fins and are located on the inner margin of the pelvic fins.)

The rostrum, or “saw,” is what makes these animals so unique!

A sawfish’s rostrum is long and narrow, edged with teeth and can comprise up to 30% of their length! Depending on the species, the rostum is comprised on 16-37 pairs of teeth on either side. Once lost, these teeth will never grow back.Contrary to popular belief, the saw is not used to saw into other animals. An efficient weapon covered in electroreceptors, called ampullae of Lorenzini, the rostrum allows sawfish to detect their prey in the substrate, before taking lateral swipes to stun or kill.

With all five species listed as endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN, the first annual International Sawfish Day couldn’t have come at a better time!

Sawfish are a vulnerable species due to their unique morphology and slow growth. Their rostrum often causes entanglement in fishing nets and other marine debris and can often lead to targeted trophy hunting. They are also continuously hunted for their meat, liver oil and fins for the shark fin trade. And, as a species commonly found in shallow coastal waters, their habitat is at risk due to development.


But, you can help!

One way to do so is by joining Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada on Facebook! On October 17, we will be celebrating International Sawfish Day with TWO Facebook LIVE events – 8:45am & 1:00pm (topics listed below).

8:45am – “All About Sawfish” Facebook LIVE with our Senior Aquarist Kat!

1:00pm – “Sawfish Feed” Facebook LIVE with our Lead Educator Danielle!

We hope to ‘sea’ you there!


Is there something that you’ve always wanted to know about sawfish? Leave your sawfish questions below (before Monday, October 16) for your chance to WIN a sawfish stuffed animal, two general admission tickets and a keychain, AND have them answered during our Facebook LIVE on International Sawfish Day!

Join the discussion 21 Comments

  • Elaine Douglas says:

    Just how sharp is the fin of a swordfish?

  • Carey Hurst says:

    My son would like to know what would have been their prehistoric ancestor and who made the first species of swordfish discovery and are there any fossils from billions of years ago.

  • Jocelyn Paprocki says:

    What does sawfish eat? Are they carnivorous like sharks or gentle feeders like the stingrays? I’ve fed stingrays in the Carribbean, but I doubt we can hand feed sawfish! I can’t wait to learn more next Tuesday. Hope I win this contest, fingers crossed ?

  • Jo Jo Chan says:

    How do you tell the difference between a male and female sawfish? My granddaughter asks a lot of questions and I want to be able to tell her the answer. I have never been to the aquarium, hopefully I’ll win the tickets so I can take my granddaughter.

  • Rob Paprocki says:

    My curious daughter wants to know how sawfish breathe since their nose is so funny looking. She asked me where the nostrils are…lol

  • Shawn Mandel says:

    On average how long does a Sawfish live for?

  • Kristy Welbourn says:

    As someone who doesn’t live near a sawfish habitat, what is the best way that I can help these saw-some creatures live a more fin-tastic life?

  • Katie Coupland says:

    Where was the first sawfish found and who named it?

  • rosealie markwick says:

    Which body of waters are they most known to habitate in?

  • Teresa Kwan says:

    How far back in earth’s history does the sawfish go ? Is there evidence of sawfish from the dinosaur age ?
    thank you !

  • Susan taylor says:

    Hi there
    How long do saw fish live ?

  • Andrew K says:

    Are there any current conservation programs at the aquarium involving these animals? What ways could the general public contribute to helping with this particular animal?

  • Jennifer says:

    Hi there, I’m curious to know if sawfish have denticles like sharks do. Thanks!

  • Wai Kwan says:

    correction to my question: Out in the natural ocean, what animals OR fish will eat the sawfish ?

  • Aline L. says:

    Aside from visiting the Dangerous Lagoon exhibit at the Aquarium (which I love!), where in the world can I visit to ‘sea’ these lovely creatures in their natural habitat? Hmmm, I’m trying to think of places that have shallow coastal waters.

  • Cynthia Kwan says:

    how old is the oldest sawfish?

  • Will Kwan says:

    do the sawfish actually use the “saw” part of their bodies?

  • Dora Lee says:

    They are very very unique! The International Sawfish Day must open my eye and mind.
    They gave me an idea to make Sawfish halloween costume!

  • Darlene Elvidge says:

    What are the 2 hole on the bottom used for?
    They look like 2 eyes!!

  • S Ragany says:

    From my boys — What do sawfish eat?
    And one from me – Will Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada do anything to commemorate the work of noted Canadian Marine Biologist and Filmmaker Rob Stewart? He dedicated his life to educating about the importance of marine life, especially apex predators, to the world ecosystems, and he lost his life while diving to film sawfish to enable the average person to see them via his next movie, Sharkwater Extinction. Given he was a Torontonian, I’d love to see a fundraiser for his conservation efforts as well as information about him in Toronto’s aquarium.

  • Ripley's Aquarium of Canada says:

    Thank you everyone for submitting your questions for International Sawfish Day! Our two winners are Kristy Welbourn and Rob Paprocki – we will be emailing you shortly. Be sure to tune in to our Facebook LIVE at 1:00pm to hear some of the questions answered.

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