Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 207–228 | Cite as

Life history implications of a tagging study of the largetooth sawfish, Pristis perotteti, in the Lake Nicaragua-Río San Juan system

  • Thomas B. Thorson


Of a total of 377 Pristis perotteti tagged in the Lake Nicaragua-Río San Juan System, 214 (56.8% were recovered. Eighty were recovered at the original tagging site; four moved downstream the full length of the river; and 127 tagged at the source of the river were recovered in all parts of the lake. Only one was recovered in a different river system, 58 km down the coast from the main mouth of the Río San Juan.

A life span of 30 years is suggested, with rapid growth (30–40 cm per year) in the first three years, slowing to about 4 or 5 cm per year in the later years of life. Maximum sizes collected were 384 cm for males, 429 cm for females, smaller than maximum lengths reported elsewhere.

The lake sawfish are not physically landlocked, but individuals remain in fresh water for very long periods; parturition takes place in fresh water; all sizes are found in the lake; and it appears that this stock finds all of its ecological needs met in the lake. Individuals may spend all of their lives in fresh water, although, as a species, P. perotteti has not completely abandoned the sea, since some are known to occur in salt water. The Lake Nicaragua-Río San Juan sawfish are a discrete stock, with only limited gene flow with neighboring stocks.

P. perotteti is farther along in its adaptation to fresh water, in being able both to osmoregulate and reproduce there, than other known euryhaline elasmobranchs, except for the African stingray, Dasyatis garouaensis, of the Niger-Benue System, and the completely adapted South American freshwater rays (family Potamotrygonidae).


Batoids Chondrichthyes Costa Rica Elasmobranchs Euryhalinity Freshwater adaptation Growth rate Isolation of population Nicaragua 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References cited

  1. Astorqui, I. 1967. Investigaciones de un Jesuita en aguas de Nicaragua. 5. Nuestro pez sierra. Revista Conservadora 16: 71–75.Google Scholar
  2. Baez, E. 1980a. Estudio del lago de Nicaragua. Observaciones sobre la pesqueria de tiburon y pez sierra. 23–30 Sept., 1980. Internal report, Centro de Investigaciones y Desarrollo Pesquero — Instituto Nicaragüense de la Pesca.Google Scholar
  3. Baez, E. 1980b. Estudio del lago de Nicaragua. Observaciones sobre la perqueria de tiburon y pez sierra. 18–26 Aug. 1980. Internal report, Centro de Investigaciones y Desarrollo Pesquero — Instituto Nicaragüense de la Pesca..Google Scholar
  4. Baeley, R.M., J.E. Fitch, E.S. Herald, E.A. Lachner, C.C. Lindsey, C.R. Robins & W.B. Scott. 1970. A list of common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada, 3rd Ed. Amer. Fish. Soc. Spec. Publ. 6: 1–150..Google Scholar
  5. Baughman, J.L. 1943. Notes on sawfish, Pristis perotteti Müller & Henle, not previously reported from the waters of the United States. Copeia 1943: 245–280..Google Scholar
  6. Beebe, W. & J. Tee-Van. 1941. Fishes from the tropical eastern Pacific. Zoologica 26: 245–280.Google Scholar
  7. Bigelow, H.B. & W.C. Schroeder. 1953. Sawfishes, guitarfishes, skates and rays. Fishes of the western North Atlantic. Mem. Sears Found. Mar. Res. 1: 1–588.Google Scholar
  8. Bigelow, H.B. & W.C. Schroeder. 1961. Carcharhinus nigaraguensis, a synonym of the bullshark, C. leucas. Copeia 1961: 359.Google Scholar
  9. Boeseman, M. 1956. Fresh-water sawfishes and sharks in Netherlands New Guinea. Science 123: 222–223.Google Scholar
  10. Carr, A. 1953. High jungles and low. Univ. Florida Press, Gainesville. 216 pp.Google Scholar
  11. Castro-Aguirre, J.L. 1978. Catálogo sistemático de los peces marinos que penetran a las aguas continentales de México con aspectos zoogeográficos y ecológicos. Dirección General del Instituto Nacional de Pesca, Serie Cientifica 19: 1–298.Google Scholar
  12. Clark, E. 1963. The maintenance of sharks in captivity, with a report on their instrumental conditioning. pp. 116–149. In: P.W. Gilbert.Google Scholar
  13. Cole, G.A. 1976. Limnology of the Great Lakes of Nicaragua. pp. 9–15. In: T.B. Thorson.Google Scholar
  14. Dahl, G. 1971. Los Peces del Norte de Colombia. Instituto de Desarrollo de los Rescursos Naturales Renovables, Bogotá, 391 pp.Google Scholar
  15. Fowler, H.W. 1941. Fishes of the Philippine Islands and adjacent seas. Bull. U.S. Nat. Mus. 100: 1–879.Google Scholar
  16. Gill, T. & J.F. Bransford. 1877. Synopsis of fishes of Lake Nicaragua. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phila. 1877: 175–191.Google Scholar
  17. Grant, C.J., R.L. Sandland & A.M. Olsen. 1979. Estimation of growth, mortality and yield per recruit of the Australian school shark, Galeorhinus australis Macleay), from tag recoveries. Aust. J. Mar. Freshwater Res. 30: 625–637.Google Scholar
  18. Hagberg, A.H. 1968. Informe sobre las investigaciones preliminares en el Lago de Nicaragua. Proyecto Regional de Desarrollo Pesquero en Centro America. PNUD(FE)-FAO-CCDP, San Salvador. 14 pp.Google Scholar
  19. Herre, A.W.C.T. 1955. Sharks in fresh water. Science 122: 417.Google Scholar
  20. Incer, J. 1976. Geography of Lake Nicaragua. pp. 3–8. In: T.B. Thorsonincoln.Google Scholar
  21. Jensen, A.C. 1965. Life history of the spiny dogfish. U.S. Fish. Wildlife Serv. Fish. Bull. 65: 527–554.Google Scholar
  22. Junqueira, L.C.U., G. Hoxter & D. Zago. 1968. Observations on the biochemistry of freshwater rays and dolphin blood serum. Rev. Bras. Pesquis. Med. Biol. 1: 225–226.Google Scholar
  23. Kato, S. & A. Hernández Carvallo. 1967. Shark tagging in the eastern Pacific Ocean, 1962–1965. pp. 93–109. In: P.W. Gilbert, R.F. Mathewson & D.P. Rall.Google Scholar
  24. Marden, L. 1944. A land of lakes and volcanoes. Nat. Geogr. 86: 161–192.Google Scholar
  25. Müller, J. & J. Henle. 1841. Systematische Beschreibung der Plagiostomen. Verlag von Veit und Comp., Berlin. 200 pp.Google Scholar
  26. Puyo, J. 1936. Contribution a l'étude ichthyologique de la Guyane Francaise pches et pcheries. Bull. Soc. Hist. Nat. Toulouse, 70: 5–258.Google Scholar
  27. Randall, J.E. 1977. Contribution to the biology of the whitetip shark (Triaenodon obesus). Pac. Sci. 31: 143–164.Google Scholar
  28. Reid, G.M. & H. Sydenham. 1978. A checklist of Lower Benue river fishes and an ichthyogeographical review of the Benue River (West Africa). J. Nat. Hist. 12: 41–67.Google Scholar
  29. Schomburgk, R. 1848. Reisen in Britisch Guiana, Vol. 3. Fauna und Flora, p. 642 Verlagsbuchhandlung von J.J.Weber, Leipzig.Google Scholar
  30. Smith, H. 1931. The absorption and excretion of water and salts by the elasombranch fishes. Amer. J. Physiol. 98: 279–295.Google Scholar
  31. Springer, S. 1963. Field observations on large charks of the Florida-Caribbean region. pp. 95–113, In: P.W. Gilbert.Google Scholar
  32. Stevens, J.D. 1976. First results of shark tagging in the northeast Atlantic, 1972–1975. J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. U.K. 56: 929–937.Google Scholar
  33. Tanaka, S., C.T. Chen & K. Mizue. 1978. Studies on sharks-XVI. Age and growth of Eiraku shark Galeorhinus japonicus (Müller et Henle). Bull. Faculty Fish., Nagasaki Univ. 45: 19–28.Google Scholar
  34. Thorson, T.B. 1971. Movement of bull sharks, Carcharhinus leucas, between Caribbean Sea and Lake Nicaragua demonstrated by tagging. Copeia 1971: 336–338.Google Scholar
  35. Thorson, T.B. 1974. Occurrence of the sawfish, Pristis perotteti, in the Amazon River, with notes on P. pectinatus. Copeia 1974: 560–564..Google Scholar
  36. Thorson, T.B. 1976a. The status of the Lake Nicaragua shark: An updated appraisal, pp. 561–574. In: T.B. Thorson.Google Scholar
  37. Thorson, T.B. 1976b. Observations of the reproduction of the sawfish, Pristis perotteti, in Lake Nicaragua, with recomendations for its conservation. pp. 641–650. In: T.B. Thorson.Google Scholar
  38. Thorson, T.B. 1980. La explotación excesiva del pez sierra, Pristis perotteti, en el Lago Nicaragua. ConCiencia (Panama) 7: 11–13.Google Scholar
  39. Thorson, T.B. 1982. The impact of commercial exploitation on sawfish and shark populations in Lake Nicaragua. Fisheries 7 (3) (In press).Google Scholar
  40. Thorson, T.B., C.M. Cowan & D.E. Watson. 1966. Sharks and sawfish in the Lake Izabal-Rio Dulce System, Guatemala. Copeia 1966: 620–622..Google Scholar
  41. Thorson, T.B., C.M. Cowan & D.E. Watson. 1967. Potamotrygon spp.: Elasmobranchs with low urea content. Science 158: 375–377.Google Scholar
  42. Thorson, T.B., C.M. Cowan & D.E. Watson. 1973. Body fluid solutes of juveniles and adults of the euryhaline bull shark Carcharhinus leucas from freshwater and saline environments. Physiol. Zool. 46: 29–42.Google Scholar
  43. Thorson, T.B. & J.W. Gerst. 1972. Comparison of some parameters of serum and uterine fluid of pregnant, viviparous sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) and serum of their near-term young. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 42A: 33–40.Google Scholar
  44. Thorson, T.B.& E.J. Lacy, Jr. 1982. Age, growth rate and longevity of Carcharhinus leucas estimated from tagging and vertebral rings. Copeia 1982: 110–116.Google Scholar
  45. Thorson, T.B. & D.E. Watson. 1975. Reassignment of the African freshwater stingray, Potamotrygon garouaensis, to the genus Dasyatis, on physiologic and morphologic grounds. Copeia 1975: 701–712..Google Scholar
  46. Thorson, T.B. D.E. Watson & C.M. Cowan. 1966. The status of the freshwater shark o fLake Nicaragua. Copeia 1966: 385–402..Google Scholar
  47. Tuma, R.E. 1976. An investigation of the feeding habits of the bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas, in the Lake Nicaragua-Río San Juan System. pp. 533–538. In: T.B. Thorson.Google Scholar
  48. Villa, J. 1968. Una teoría sobre el origen de los peces de Xiloá. Encuentro, Rev. Univ. Cent. Amer. 1: 202–214.Google Scholar
  49. Villa, J. 1976. Some speculations about ‘The Great Nicaraguan Lake.’ pp. 191–196. In: T.B. Thorson.Google Scholar
  50. Wallace, J.H. 1967. The batoid fishes of the east coast of southern Africa. Part I: Sawfishes and guitarfishes. S. Afr. Accoc. Mar. Biol. Res. Oceanogr. Res. Inst., Investig. Rept. 15: 1–32.Google Scholar
  51. Wass, R.C. 1973. Size, growth, and reproduction of the sandbar shark, Carcharhinus milberti, in Hawaii. Pac. Sci. 27: 305–318.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dr. W. Junk Publishers 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas B. Thorson
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Life SciencesUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA

Personalised recommendations