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2.44 in. Schizorhiza Sawfish Vertebra - Morocco

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2.44 in. Schizorhiza Sawfish Vertebra - Morocco

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Schizorhiza stromeri
(Weiler, 1930)
Extinct Sawfish

Oued Zem, Khourigba, Morocco, North Africa

Upper Cretaceous Period - 80 Million Years Old

Vertebra : 2.44 in. diameter

1 inch = 2.54 cm

Here on the original matrix as they were found, is an incredibly uncommon Schizorhiza backbone.

These are from a much larger specimen that measures over 6.5 feet in length, pieces like this were found surrounding the larger piece already jacketed.

Sawfish specimens from Schizorhiza are very uncommon and only rarely are found in the phosphate mines of Morocco, as the teeth and what are preserved of the bones are incredibly delicate.


Schizorhiza is a fossil genus of cartilaginous fish, containing a single accepted species Schizorhiza stromeri. Its fossils are found in rocks dating from the Campanian and Maastrichtian stages; it thus lived between about 83.6 and 66 million years ago. Due to its unique rostral teeth, Schizorhiza is placed in the unique subfamily Schizorhizinae, of which it is the only species presently known of this type of skate/ray/shark.

Schizorhiza is unique among all "saw-snouted" Elasmobranchii in that its rostral teeth did not fall off as they are replaced. Rather, they remain in place, with the new teeth under them, until they are worn off. Thus, the rostrum's edge had a continuous serrated cover of tooth enamel. Full-grown rostral teeth measured less than in other Sclerorhynchoidea, let alone sawfishes, at 1-2 cm tall and 4-8 mm wide. They had a small triangular or rhomboidal shape at the tip, with sharp cutting edges, and a long forked peduncle, each lobe of which divides into four lobelets proximally. The new teeth developed inside the peduncular fork; the scientific name Schizorhiza – meaning "split root" – refers to the shape of the rostral teeth. The oral teeth were very small (about 1.5-2.5 mm high and 1-2 mm wide), with a large and recurved central point and keels at the side that formed tiny secondary points.

It lived in the Tethys Ocean between about 30° northern and southern latitude, and apparently was a successful species that ranged widely. Its fossils have been found in northern and central Africa, Iraq, Italy, Texas (USA), Coahuila (Mexico) and Bolivia. As its rostrum seems to be well-adapted for slashing and of little use for digging, it is presumed that this species did not share the whip-like tail of the bottom-dwelling relative Sclerorhynchus, but apart from the peculiar rostrum must have looked not too different from one of the sawfishes of today, regardless of whether they were very close relatives or not. Its total length was about 1.5 meters.

This specimen comes from the Upper Cretaceous, Maastrichtian Stage, roughly 72 - 66 million years old.