Scientists Help Rare Sawfish Species Give Birth in the Wild

Image: Facebook

Earlier this week a team of scientists in a protected region of the Bahamas participated in an astounding event — the birth of young sawfish from a rare endangered species.

Sawfish are known as carpenter sharks and have ray-like bodies characterised most prominently by frontal nose extensions lined on both sides by horizontally jutting denticles similar to teeth, attributing to the resemblance to a saw. This anatomical development is called a rostrum, used as both an offensive and defensive mechanism for survival.

All species of sawfish are listed by the IUCN as endangered or critically endangered and reside only in the waters around northern Australia and Florida’s Atlantic coast. Habitat destruction as a result of overfishing and the purposeful killing of these animals for the illegal trade of their rostrum are attributed to the diminishing populations.

Conservation efforts have resulted in the establishment of protected zones for sawfish, including Everglades National Park, the Ten Thousand Island National Wildlife Refuge, and the West Side National Park in the Bahamas. 

Image: Facebook

Florida State University ecologist Dr Dean Grubbs and his team routinely identify and tag sawfish inhabiting the waters of the West Side area. During an expedition just earlier this week, they were tagging a sawfish when they encountered an amazing event — the adult female was in the process of giving birth.

Baby sawfish slip out of the underside of the female’s body rostra-first — the jagged teeth initially coated in a gelatinous substance that protects the mother’s tissues from injury and dissolves within their first week of life. 

The team actively participated in the delivery of five sawfish pups, correspondingly tagging them for identification and future conservation purposes. The mother and pups were then released back into the water.

This event was the first sawfish birth ever encountered in the wild.

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