Eurypegasus draconis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Gasterosteiformes Pegasidae

Scientific Name: Eurypegasus draconis
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1766)
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name(s):
English Short Dragonfish, Short Seamoth, Little Dragonfish, Common Seamoth, Dwarf Seamoth
French Dragon de mer, Pégase, Petit dragon
Cataphractus draco Gronow, 1854
Pegasus draconis Linneaus, 1766
Pegasus latirostris Richardson, 1846
Pegasus draco Shaw, 1804
Pegasus pauciradiatus Ogilby, 1886
Pegasus umitengu (Jordan and Snyder, 1901)
Surypegasus draconis (Linnaeus, 1766)
Zalises draconis (Linnaeus, 1766)
Zalises umitengu Jordan and Snyder, 1901
Taxonomic Source(s): Bleeker, P. 1863. Deuxième notice sur la faune ichthyologique de l'île de Flores. Nederlandsch Tijdschrift voor de Dierkunde 1: 248-252.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-12-15
Assessor(s): Sorensen, M.& Vincent, A.
Reviewer(s): Curtis, J. & O’Donnell, K.

The extent of occurrence for this species is presently much greater than 20,000 km², but because there is very little information on threats (e.g., fisheries data) and population abundance/trends this species has been listed as Data Deficient. A listing of Data Deficient does not imply that the species is not threatened, but instead that not enough information exists to estimate extinction risk. E. draconis may be susceptible to increased fishing pressure for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as other economically important target species, including seahorses, decline. This could result in more fishers collecting sea moths to supplement their income (Vincent 1997). E. draconis has also been recorded in low densities (Pajaro et al. 2004) and possesses life history characteristics that may make it particularly sensitive to exploitation (Vincent 1997). The application of Data Deficient is a call for more research and scrutiny to be directed at this species.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:E. draconis is the most widely distributed of the five sea moth species. It occurs throughout the tropical and subtropical Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (Palsson and Pietsch 1989).
Countries occurrence:
Australia (Lord Howe Is., New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia); China; Egypt; Fiji; French Polynesia; India; Indonesia; Israel; Japan; Madagascar; Maldives; Marshall Islands; Mauritius; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Mozambique; New Caledonia; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Réunion; Somalia; South Africa; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Vanuatu; Viet Nam
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – western; Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):91
Upper depth limit (metres):3
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The lack of data for population sizes of sea moths such as E. draconis that was highlighted by Vincent (1997) still exists. Eurypegasus draconis is found in low densities (Herold and Clark 1993, Vincent 1997) and breeding pairs do not show site fidelity.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Habitat
E. draconis is most commonly found in bays and estuaries (Grant 1978) and has been collected at depths as shallow as 3 m but is most often found between 37–91 m (Palsson and Pietsch 1989). Herold and Clark (1993) found that E. draconis were associated with fine to coarse pebble substrate or vast stretches of sandy bottom, sometimes with the seagrass Halophila stipulacea, and only occasionally with patches of corals.

E. draconis are broadcast spawners and observations of the species in situ suggest that it is monogamous. Pairings of individuals were maintained for at least 22 days (Herold and Clark 1993). After two spawnings in captivity, there were 253 and 236 eggs collected respectively (Herold and Clark 1993). Spawning by pairs has been observed to occur at dusk ex situ when pairs travel up the water column to release and fertilise eggs. Spawning activities may occur daily during the summer breeding season. E. draconis do not appear to be territorial or site attached (Herold and Clark 1993).

E. draconis is an opportunistic feeder and the most common items found in its diet include copepods, isopods, polycheates, nematoades, trematodes, pistol shrimp, post-veliger mollusks, foraminifera and stones up to 1 mm in diameter (Herold and Clark 1993).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

Eurypegasus draconis is traded as a marine medicinal that is a lower-cost option for maladies often treated by seahorses and pipefishes (Vincent 1997). Live sea moths are also sold in the aquarium trade (Vincent 1997, Pajaro et al. 2004).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Sea moths may possess characteristics that make them unsuited to heavy exploitation, such as low population densities and established long-term pair bonds of one male and one female that mate repeatedly (Kuiter 1985, Herold and Clark 1993, Vincent 1997).

Threats to E. draconis include being taken as bycatch in fishing gears that collect fish from near the bottom. Bycatch of E. draconis has been reported in China (Vincent 1997), the Philippines (Pajaro et al. 2004) and Australia (Stobutzki et al. 2001). A review of species taken as bycatch in the Australian prawn fishery rated E. draconis as having high susceptibility to capture by trawls (Stobutzki et al. 2001). In the Philippines, E. draconis was taken as bycatch in modified Danish seines more often than in otter trawls and it was estimated that in the Danajon Bank, approximately 132,480 individuals were caught, on average, annually as bycatch (Pajaro et al. 2004). Sea moths caught as bycatch in China often enter the medicinal trade (Vincent 1997).
Sea moth species began appearing in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the 1980s, and are now traded by several South East Asian countries, including southern China and Hong Kong, although the scale and impact of the trade remains unclear (Lourie et al.1999, Vincent 1997). While E. draconis individuals are found in TCM they are used less often than other sea moth species (Vincent 1997).

Extraction of live specimens of E. draconis for the aquarium trade is performed by compressor divers (Pajaro et al. 2004). Collections have also been performed with hand nets (Herold and Clark 1993). Since E. draconis lives in deeper waters, it is collected less often for the aquarium trade than other sea moths.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: E. draconis may be found in some Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Philippines as well as Australia. No other conservation measures are known.

Classifications [top]

9. Marine Neritic -> 9.3. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Loose Rock/pebble/gravel
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.4. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.9. Marine Neritic - Seagrass (Submerged)
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.10. Marine Neritic - Estuaries

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.3. Unintentional effects: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Medicine - human & veterinary
 Local : ✓   National : ✓  International : ✓ 

♦  Pets/display animals, horticulture
 Local : ✓   National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

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

Grant, E.M. 1978. Guide to fishes. Department of Harbours and Marine, Brisbane

Herold, D. and Clark, E. 1993. Monogamy, spawning and skin-shedding of the sea moth, Eurypegasus draconis (Pisces: Pegasidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 37: 219-236.

IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2010.1). Available at: (Accessed: 10 March 2010).

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

Lourie, S.A., Pritchard, J.C., Casey, S.P., Ky, T.S., Hall, H.J. and Vincent, A.C.J. 1999. The taxonomy of Vietnam's exploited seahorses (family Syngnathidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 66: 231–256.

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.

Stobutzki, I., Miller, M. and Brewer, D. 2001. Sustainability of fishery bycatch: a process for assessing highly diverse and numerous bycatch. Environmental Conservation 28(2): 167-181.

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

Citation: Sorensen, M.& Vincent, A. 2010. Eurypegasus draconis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T8407A12909735. . Downloaded on 18 January 2017.
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