Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Not many people know much about sawfish, and I mean that. The Pristidae family, not unlike my own, is little-studied. They are critically endangered and not to be confused with sawsharks (Pristiophoriformes) just because they look like them. (Did you know the shark is a type of fish? It just gets worse and worse.)
Why do they have those fierce-looking saws? Well, that is just your prejudice speaking, because the saws look more like television antennae than saws, and the peaceloving sawfish use them to detect electrical currents. These currents are in other fish, and after detecting the other fish the sawfish spring upon them and slash them furiously with their saw, after which the other fish put up little resistance to being eaten.
I am interested in sawfish because they grow to be 30ft long and weigh two tons. If you believe Wikipedia, you will believe anything, including that TC Bridges claimed to capture a record-breaking giant one in 1927. Anyone who knows anything knows that TC Bridges did not in fact make this claim. It was another explorer altogether.
Sawfish, like other elasmobranches, lack a swim bladder. There are seven types, or more, or less (fewer). Considerable taxonomic confusion pertains to the extent that the situation has been called chaotic. One thing I do know is that the pups are born live with a protective membrane over their saws. The membrane is not to protect the saw.
The Aztecs revered sawfish as an 'earth monster'. It is almost hard to believe the Aztecs lost.
(Will Cuppy read everything there was to read before publishing his animal essays. I do not. That is not the only difference.)