How long would the scope need to be for you to look back 56 million years, into a prehistoric world of vibrant animalia, some on land, some in the sea?
It would need to be one very, very long scope, with powerful lenses able to see through time. Of course, you could just go to the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach, to the tank with the larger sharks, and admire the largetooth sawfish.
But go soon: The female Pristis pristis will wrap up her decade-long residency at the aquarium in either November or December, when she's transported to another aquarium "to become a part of a breeding program."
The aquarium has not revealed where exactly the critically endangered fish will head next. Largetooth sawfish "are a part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums." (Nope, no largetooth sawfish may be taken from their ocean home by any zoo or aquarium. That's finito.)
As for the 56 million years bit? That's when the sawfish "evolved from rays," or thereabouts, says the aquarium. You can see the ray-like lines in the aquarium's largetooth sawfish, but no, that is not an actual saw on the front of her face.
It's a rostrum, and what look like saw edges are teeth, which aid the sawfish in scrubbing about for dinner on the ocean floor. The aquarium says the rostrum grows to be about a fourth or fifth of the length of the fish, which is found in "shallow areas of Indo-Pacific from eastern Africa to Australia."
Want to revisit a favorite before she makes her move? Go now. And be sure to also wave at the big sharks, too, the ones who share her capacious tank. It's truly a testament to the sawfish's amazing appendage that, though she swims among several big predators, visitors often comment on the sawfish first, even before the sharks gain their attention.
Is it prehistory here today? Can any animal that retains tusks and shells that hearken back millions of years match the largetooth sawfish in sheer "wow" factor?
Of course. But, let's be honest: When you rock a giant saw — er, rostrum — on the front of your noggin, you pretty much automatically win the "most spectacular" ribbon.