Australian scientists at the University of Queensland have found that the endangered sawfish uses its eponymous nose for a variety of tasks.
Their long snouts lined with pointy teeth make sawfishes hard to miss. But just how these endangered creatures use their toothy snouts called saws hasn't been well understood.
By observing captured freshwater-dwelling Pristis microdon sawfishes, scientists have found the fish use sensors in their saws to detect other fish, their prey, and to swipe at them with enough force to impale their dinner.
The team, led by Barbara Wueringer of the University of Queensland in Australia, found that the sawfishes tore into the already dead fish they were fed, swiping side-to-side several times per second. The swipes were strong enough to split the fish in half.
The sawfish then used their snouts to pin their meal onto the bottom of the aquarium to eat it.
Scientists already knew that freshwater sawfishes — which hunt in murky waters along coastlines and in rivers — have tiny receptors on their saws that pick up on electrical fields produced by their prey, as well as sensors that detect movements in the water.