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The presently known pristiform fauna of the western Atlantic consists of only two species, one each of Fowler's (1941) subgenera, Pristis and Pristiopsis. The former, characterized by the absence of a subcaudal lobe on the caudal fin, is represented by Pristis pectinatus; the latter, in which the subcaudal lobe is present, by Pristis perotteti. Although several features readily separate the two species, they can most easily be distinguished by the more slender rostrum of P. pectinatus and its larger number of rostral teeth, 24 to 32 on each side, as compared with 14 to 20 in P. perotteti (Thorson, 1973).
The world-wide taxonomic picture of the pristids is confused, and some references to western Atlantic forms have employed several scientific names best considered synonyms of those above. However, there is substantial agreement in the major modern works that the species along the Central American coast are indeed those described by Latham in 1794 as P. pectinatus and by Muller and Henle in 1841 as P. perotteti (see Bigelow and Schroeder, 1953).