Life history of the Critically Endangered largetooth sawfish: a compilation of data for population assessment and demographic modelling

The largetooth sawfish Pristis pristis is a Critically Endangered, once widespread shark-like ray. The species is now extinct or severely depleted in many former parts of its range and is protected in some other range states where populations persist. The likelihood of collecting substantial new biological information is now low. Here, we review all available life history information on size, age and growth, reproductive biology, and demography as a resource for population assessment and demographic modelling. We also revisit a subset of historical data from the 1970s to examine the maternal size−litter size relationship. All available information on life history is derived from the Indo-West Pacific (i.e. northern Australia) and the Western Atlantic (i.e. Lake Nicaragua-Río San Juan system in Central America) subpopulations. P. pristis reaches a maximum size of at least 705 cm total length (TL), size-at-birth is 72−90 cm TL, female size-at-maturity is reached by 300 cm TL, male size-at-maturity is 280−300 cm TL, age-at-maturity is 8−10 yr, longevity is 30−36 yr, litter size range is 1−20 (mean of 7.3 in Lake Nicaragua), and reproductive periodicity is suspected to be biennial in Lake Nicaragua (Western Atlantic) but annual in Australia (Indo-West Pacific). There was a weak relationship between litter size and maternal size in Lake Nicaragua, and lifetime reproductive output for an individual female from Lake Nicaragua was estimated as 73 pups. Future demographic models should aim to capture the variability and uncertainty in life history parameters for P. pristis and we encourage a conservative approach to any application for conservation and management.

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