Utility of rostra in the identification of Australian sawfishes (Chondrichthyes: Pristidae)

Whitty, Jeff M., Phillips, Nicole M., Thorburn, Dean C., Simpfendorfer, Colin A., Field, Iain, Peverell, Stirling C., and Morgan, David L. (2014) Utility of rostra in the identification of Australian sawfishes (Chondrichthyes: Pristidae). Aquatic Conservation: marine and freshwater ecosystems , 24 (6). pp. 791-804.

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1. Effective management of critically endangered sawfishes can be a difficult task, in part due to interspecies misidentification. Current methods for identifying sawfishes can be impractical as they are based on morphological features that are often unobservable. Further exploration is required to develop a more reliable means of identification.

2. This study explored the utility of sawfish rostra in determining the species, size and sex of sawfishes, as rostra are commonly the only feature of a sawfish observed by fishers or present in public and private collections. 3. A morphometric and meristic database consisting of over 1100 narrow sawfish (Anoxypristis cuspidata), dwarf sawfish (Pristis clavata), largetooth (or freshwater) sawfish (Pristis pristis; formerly Pristis microdon) and green sawfish (Pristis zijsron) rostra from Australian waters, was statistically analysed.

4. Identification of sawfishes was found to be possible through the use of the variables: inter-tooth spacing, standard rostrum width/standard rostrum length, standard rostrum length/total rostrum length, rostrum tip width/standard rostrum length, and/or rostral tooth count range, although the distinguishing variables were species-dependent.

5. The relationship between standard rostrum length and total length was also observed to vary substantially between most species. Models for estimating total length from standard rostrum length are provided.

6. This study has provided a tool that can be used to identify accurately the species and size of sawfishes by their rostra, and therefore can assist in clarifying historical and contemporary sawfish records, nomenclature and distributions. A better understanding of these issues should allow sawfish conservation strategies to become more focused, and thus more effective.

Item ID: 37794
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1099-0755
Keywords: ocean; river; taxonomy; sawfish; endangered species; fish; fishing
Funders: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), Government of Western Australia (GWA)
Projects and Grants: DEWHA Grant: RFT 016/0607DEH, GWA NRM Programme Grant: 09050
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2015 03:21
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 40%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 30%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0704 Fisheries Sciences > 070402 Aquatic Ecosystem Studies and Stock Assessment @ 30%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8302 Fisheries - Wild Caught > 830204 Wild Caught Fin Fish (excl. Tuna) @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 30%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 30%
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