Spotted in the Everglades: A critically endangered smalltooth sawfish

A friend of the Everglades recently took a boat trip from Flamingo to the Shark River basin where he shared a chance encounter with an extremely special Everglades species.

In the video below, you’ll see the protruding double dorsal fins and tail of a smalltooth sawfish as it patrols the shallow shoreline of Shark River. The species gets it name from its most distinct feature, detailed in the drawing above — a long, flat snout lined with teeth that looks like a saw and is known as a rostrum. These saws are extremely sensitive to currents given off by prey, capable of detecting the tiniest muscle contractions, and allowing sawfish to hunt in the dead of night.

Once common on the east coast from Florida through the Carolinas and in the gulf states, it is now designated as critically endangered due to many issues including poor water quality, habitat degradation and accidental capture in commercial gill nets. The Everglades is one of the last remaining strongholds of this species, making moments like this one all the more rare and exciting.