Pegasus lancifer 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Syngnathiformes Pegasidae

Scientific Name: Pegasus lancifer Kaup, 1861
Common Name(s):
English Sculptured Dragonfish, Dragonfish, Sculptured Seamoth, Seamoth
Taxonomic Source(s): Palsson, W.A. and Pietsch, T.W. 1989. Revision of the acanthopterygian fish family Pegasidae (order Gasterosteiformes). Indo-Pacific Fishes 18: 1038.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-05-10
Assessor(s): Pollom, R.
Reviewer(s): Ralph, G.
Contributor(s): Wiswedel, S., Paxton, J.R., Pogonoski, J., Vincent, A., Morgan, S.K. & Pollard, D.A.
Pegasus lancifer is a coastal demersal pegasid seamoth that is endemic to southern Australia. The main threat currently facing Pegasus lancifer populations is direct take as bycatch in prawn trawl fisheries; however, prawn fisheries in South Australia occupy less than 10% of P. lancifer’s range. Additionally, a report on by-catch in South Australian prawn fisheries found more individuals in sites with higher fishing pressure. This information suggests that P. lancifer populations are able to withstand current pressures from bottom trawling. There are no other known threats, and the species occurs in several protected areas in its range. Therefore Pegasus lancifer is listed as Least Concern.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Pegasus lancifer is a temperate, inshore species (Paxton et al. 1989) whose distribution includes the southern coast of Australia between Rottnest Island, Western Australia and Lakes Entrance, Victoria including Tasmania (Palsson and Pietsch 1989, Edgar 1997).

Museum Records from Australian Fish Collections (Pogonoski et al. 2002): 146 specimens (Standard Length 18-119 mm), collected from depths of 0-56 m, ranging in geographical distribution from off Lakes Entrance (37°53’S, 148°E), Victoria, southwards to Hobart (43°07’S), Tasmania and north-westwards to Rottnest Island (32°S, 115°30), Western Australia, collected between 1909 and 1996.
Countries occurrence:
Australia (South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:
Lower depth limit (metres):56
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


To date there have been no dedicated surveys or population estimates for Pegasus lancifer. In 2007 in the Spencer Gulf, mean abundance in trawl catches was 0.067 individuals/ha (Currie et al. 2009). Further research is needed in order to determine population size and trends in abundance for this species. 

Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Extreme fluctuations:UnknownPopulation severely fragmented:Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Adult Pegasus lancifer are mainly bottom-dwelling fish that are most often found on sand or mud amongst or near seagrass (Gomon et al. 1994) or near low rubble reef (Kuiter 1996). They are known to occur at a variety of depths from intertidal shallows to ca. 55 m (Gomon et al. 1994). In the Spencer Gulf, depths ranged from 17-36 m (Currie et al. 2009).

Pegasus lancifer camouflages itself by rapidly changing colours to match its surroundings and occasionally burrows into the substrate to escape predators. In spring, the species enters sandy bays to breed, sometimes congregating in small numbers. Juveniles are pelagic before taking on the adults’ bottom mode of existence (Kuiter 1985, Gomon et al. 1994). This species is mostly buried during the day, and active at dusk. Males have ornamental patches on the edges of their pectoral fins for displaying to females (Kuiter 1996). Spawning involves the pair swimming upwards together, to several meters from the substrate. They quickly dart back after the release of eggs and sperm, which float to the surface. These activities have been observed to occur towards dusk on high tides (Kuiter 1993). Seasonal migrations are suggested by the fact that they are trawled with prawns only during certain times of the year (Kuiter 1985).They often crawl over the seabed on their paired fins in search of small crustaceans, worms and molluscs on which they feed (Kuiter 1985, Gomon et al. 1994).

Pegasus lancifer reaches a maximum length of 12 cm (Kuiter 1996).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Movement patterns:Unknown

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

Pegasus lancifer is not known to be used for traditional Chinese medicine; however, it may enter the traditional medicine trade along with other pegasids in the future (Vincent 1997, M. Pajaro pers. comm. 2010).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Presently, the only known threat to this species is direct take as bycatch in bottom trawls, where P. lancifer is trawled with prawns during certain times of the year (Kuiter 1985).

A report on by-catch in South Australian prawn fisheries found 18 P. lancifer caught at eight different sites, with a trawl catch abundance of 0.067 individuals/ha (Currie et al. 2009).  More individuals were caught at sites with moderate trawling intensity (0.181 individuals/ha) than at sites with low trawling intensity (0.038 individuals/ha; S. Roberts pers. comm).

Additionally, South Australia’s prawn fisheries occupy less than 10% of P. lancifer’s range (Dixon et al. 2009). This information suggests that P. lancifer populations are able to withstand current pressures from bottom trawling. Continued monitoring of Southern Australia’s prawn fisheries by SARDI (South Australian Research and Development Institute) every five years will provide an ongoing capacity to monitor any changes in this species’ status.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

This species possibly occurs in the following Australian marine protected area: Great Australian Bight Marine Park, SA (Pogonoski et al. 2002), and a number of other smaller reserves including American River Aquatic Reserve, Aldinga Reef and Bales Beach (Wood 2007). While there is no known targeted fishery for this species, the situation must be monitored closely since growing demands for syngnathids in TCM may result in a developing market (Vincent 1997, M. Pajaro pers. comm).

Errata [top]

Errata reason: This errata assessment has been created because the map was accidentally left out of the version published previously.

Classifications [top]

9. Marine Neritic -> 9.1. Marine Neritic - Pelagic
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.4. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.9. Marine Neritic - Seagrass (Submerged)
10. Marine Oceanic -> 10.1. Marine Oceanic - Epipelagic (0-200m)

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:No
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Area based regional management plan:Unknown
  Invasive species control or prevention:Unknown
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:No
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Unknown
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:No
  Included in international legislation:No
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:No
5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.4. Unintentional effects: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:No decline ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.7. Reduced reproductive success

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Baillie, J. and Groombridge, B. (eds). 1996. 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. pp. 378. International Union for Conservation of Nature, Gland, Switzerland.

Currie, D.R., Dixon, C.D., Roberts, S.D., Hooper, G.E., Sorokin, S.J. and Ward, T.M. 2009. Fishery-independent by-catch survey to inform risk assessment of the Spencer Gulf Prawn Trawl Fishery. Report to PIRSA Fisheries. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences),.

Dixon, C.D., Hooper, G.E. and Roberts, S.D. 2009. Spencer Gulf prawn Penaeus (Melicertus) latisulcatus Fishery 2007/08. Fishery Assessment Report to PIRSA Fisheries. South Australian Research and Development Institute, Adelaide.

Edgar, G.J. 1997. Australian Marine Life. Reed, Kew, Victoria.

Froese, R. and Pauly, D. (eds.). 2009. Fishbase. Word Wide Web Publication. Available at:

Gomon, M.F., Glover, J.C.M. and Kuiter, R.H. 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Printer, Adelaide.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. Available at: (Accessed: 07 December 2016).

IUCN. 2017. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-1. Available at: (Accessed: 27 April 2017).

Kuiter, R.H. 1985. The remarkable seamoths. Scuba Diver 3: 16–18.

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Crawford House Press, Bathurst.

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland, Frenchs Forest, NSW, Australia.

Pajaro, M.G., J.J. Meeuwig, B.G. Giles and A.C.J. Vincent. 2004. Biology, fishery and trade of sea moths (Pisces:Pegasidae) in the central Phillipines. Oryx 38: 432-438.

Palsson, W.A. and Pietsch, T.W. 1989. Revision of the acanthopterygian fish family Pegasidae (order Gasterosteiformes). Indo-Pacific Fishes 18: 1038.

Paxton, J.R., Hoese, D.F., Allen, G.R. and Hanley, J.E. 1989 Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol. 7. Pisces. Petromyzontidae to Carangidae. Australian Biological Resources Study, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra

Pogonoski, J.J., Pollard, D.A. and Paxton, J.R. 2002. Conservation Overview and Action Plan for Australian Threatened and Potentially Threatened Marine and Estuarine Fishes. Environment Australia, Canberra, Australia. (See

Vincent, A.C.J. 1997. Trade in pegasid fishes (sea moths), primarily for traditional Chinese medicine. Oryx 31: 199–208

Wood, L.J. 2007. MPA Global: A database of the world's marine protected areas. Available at:

Citation: Pollom, R. 2016. Pegasus lancifer (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T16474A115133751. . Downloaded on 22 May 2018.
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