It has long been assumed that the elongated rostra (the saws) of sawsharks (family: Pristiophoridae) and sawfish (family: Pristidae) serve a similar function. Recent behavioural and anatomical studies have shed light on the dual function of the pristid rostrum in mechanosensory and electrosensory prey detection and prey manipulation. Here, the authors examine the distributions of the mechanosensory lateral line canals and electrosensory ampullae of Lorenzini in the southern sawshark, Pristiophorus nudipinnis and the longnose sawshark, Pristiophorus cirratus. In both species, the receptive fields of the mechano- and electrosensory systems extend the full length of the rostrum indicating that the sawshark rostrum serves a sensory function. Interestingly, despite recent findings suggesting they feed at different trophic levels, minimal interspecific variation between the two species was recorded. Nonetheless, compared to pristids, the pristiophorid rostrum possesses a reduced mechanosensory sampling field but higher electrosensory resolution, which suggests that pristiophorids may not use their rostrums to disable large prey like pristids do.
- ampullae of Lorenzini
- elongated rostrum