First insights into the function of the sawshark rostrum through examination of rostral tooth microwear

R. J. Nevatte*, B. E. Wueringer, D. E. Jacob, J. M. Park, J. E. Williamson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    18 Citations (Scopus)


    Potential roles of the rostrum of sawsharks (Pristiophoridae), including predation and self-defence, were assessed through a variety of inferential methods. Comparison of microwear on the surface of the rostral teeth of sawsharks and sawfishes (Pristidae) show that microwear patterns are alike and suggest that the elongate rostra in these two elasmobranch families are used for a similar purpose (predation). Raman spectroscopy indicates that the rostral teeth of both sawsharks and sawfishes are composed of hydroxyapatite, but differ in their collagen content. Sawfishes possess collagen throughout their rostral teeth whereas collagen is present only in the centre of the rostral teeth of sawsharks, which may relate to differences in ecological use. The ratio of rostrum length to total length in the common sawshark Pristiophorus cirratus was found to be similar to the largetooth sawfish Pristis pristis but not the knifetooth sawfish Anoxypristis cuspidata. Analysis of the stomach contents of P. cirratus indicates that the diet consists of demersal fishes and crustaceans, with shrimp from the family Pandalidae being themost important dietary component.No prey item showed evidence ofwounds inflicted by the rostral teeth. In light of the similarities in microwear patterns, rostral tooth chemistry and diet with sawfishes, it is hypothesised that sawsharks use their rostrum in a similar manner for predation (sensing and capturing prey) and possibly for self-defence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1582-1602
    Number of pages21
    JournalJournal of Fish Biology
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


    • diet
    • elasmobranchs
    • pristiophoridae
    • Raman spectroscopy
    • sawfish


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