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Ginsu the sawfish lives in the shark habitat in Wild Reef. Her most notable feature is the six-foot rostrum lined with sharp spikes that is her species' namesake.

Green Sawfish

Green sawfish are the largest of the five sawfish species. Ginsu, in Wild Reef, is 14 feet long and weighs 375 pounds. And she’s still growing! Sawfishes’ skeletons are made of cartilage, not hard bone, the same as those of their close relatives, the rays. That includes the signature saw, or rostrum, which can be one-third of the fish’s length.

Green sawfish Ginsu is most notable for her six-foot long rostrum with short, "saw-like" protrusions.
Ginsu the sawfish lives in the shark habitat in Wild Reef. Her most notable feature is the six-foot rostrum lined with sharp spikes that is her species' namesake.

Scan, stun, eat

The green sawfish’s rostrum is studded with more than 40 dagger-sharp toothlike scales. It’s also lined with thousands of electroreceptors for scanning the water and ocean floor for prey. The sawfish whips its saw into a school of small fishes, then circles back to pick up stunned and injured prey, along with bottom-dwelling invertebrates, eating them whole with its small mouth. Ginsu, however, has been trained to take her carefully measured diet of mullet, herring and mackerel from extra-long tongs.

Green sawfish have a rostrum on the fronts of their bodies that can grow up to six feet long, edged in razor sharp spikes and capable of sensing fish nearby as the sawfish hunts.

Endangered future

Only the biggest, boldest predators, like bull and tiger sharks, dare to tangle with adult green sawfish. But commercial fishing nets are an ever-present danger. The same Indo-Pacific coastal waters that green sawfish favor are prime commercial fishing grounds. Sawfishes drown when their rostrums get tangled in long trawl lines and gillnets. All sawfish species are either endangered or, like the green sawfish, critically endangered—warnings that they face a high risk of becoming extinct in the wild.

Ginsu the Sawfish is raised out of the water in Wild Reef on a netted stretcher for surgery to remove a possibly cancerous growth.

Surgery for a sawfish

For the well-being of Shedd's largest fish and the team that cares for her, keeping a safe distance is the best policy unless Ginsu absolutely requires hands-on attention. In mid-summer 2015, she did. An aquarist noticed a mass on the underside of a fin. Shedd's veterinary team agreed that the growth had to be removed. The carefully planned surgery was an interdepartmental effort.

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