Eurypegasus draconis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Syngnathiformes Pegasidae

Scientific Name: Eurypegasus draconis (Linnaeus, 1766)
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name(s):
English Short Dragonfish, Common Seamoth, Dwarf Seamoth, Little Dragonfish, Short 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 & Snyder, 1901)
Surypegasus draconis (Linnaeus, 1766)
Zalises draconis (Linnaeus, 1766)
Zalises umitengu Jordan & Snyder, 1901
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: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-07-11
Assessor(s): Pollom, R.
Reviewer(s): Ralph, G.
Contributor(s): Sorensen, M. & Vincent, A.

Eurypegasus draconis is a species of sea moth that occurs throughout the Indo-West  and Central Pacific to a depth of 93 m. A habitat generalist, this sea moth can be found in gravel bays, estuaries, sandy areas with seagrass and occasionally on coral reefs. The species is often caught as bycatch and subsequently traded for use in traditional medicines and aquariums, and this catch may add up to be a substantial level of offtake in parts of its range - particularly in India and Southeast and East Asia. It occurs in several protected areas, but is not mentioned in any international legislation or trade regulations. The species is likely to find refuge from fishing pressure at many remote islands and in Hawai'i, where trawling is banned. Further research and monitoring are needed in order to determine population size and trends and how extensively the species is exploited. Although there may be localized depletions in part of its range, these have not been documented and the wide range of this habitat generalist likely buffers it from exploitation to some degree. Therefore Eurypegasus draconis is listed as Least Concern.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Eurypegasus 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 (Society Is.); Guam; India (Andaman Is.); Indonesia; Israel; Japan; Jordan; Madagascar; Maldives; Marshall Islands; Mauritius; Mayotte; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Mozambique; New Caledonia; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Réunion; Saudi Arabia; Seychelles (Seychelles (main island group)); Solomon Islands; Somalia; South Africa; Sudan; Taiwan, Province of China; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; United States Minor Outlying Islands (Wake Is.); Vanuatu; Viet Nam; Yemen
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern; Indian Ocean – western; Pacific – western central; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – eastern central
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):UnknownEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):Unknown
Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:Unknown
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:To date there have been no dedicated surveys or population estimates for this species, and 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. The species has likely undergone declines in some localities that are heavily populated and under heavy fishing pressure, such as India and Southeast Asia. The wide range of the species means that it likely finds refuge and has stable populations in remote locations and in Hawai'i, where trawl fishing has been banned.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:UnknownPopulation severely fragmented:Unknown
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:UnknownAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Eurypegasus 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. They have also been reported from areas with shell rubble, reef-flats, and Caulerpa beds, and are sometimes associated with crinoids (Palsson and Pietsch 1989). 

This species is a broadcast spawner and observations 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. Eurypegasus draconis do not appear to be territorial or site attached (Herold and Clark 1993).

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

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, including an estimated 130,000 individuals of E. draconis off of Bohol in 1996 (based on interviews with fishers and traders) (Pajaro et al. 2004).  Recent catches have not been quantified, and further research and monitoring are needed.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): 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 based on interviews with fishers (Pajaro et al. 2004). Sea moths in general that are caught as bycatch in China often enter the medicinal trade, although this species was not specifically identified (Vincent 1997).  Although they are caught in small numbers in individual catches, this may collectively add up to millions of individual animals and a substantial portion of the breeding population (as has been shown for the related seahorses - Lawson et al. 2017).
Sea moth species began appearing in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the 1980s, and are now traded by several Asian countries, including southern China and Hong Kong, although the scale and impact of the trade remains unclear (Vincent 1997, Lourie et al. 1999). While E. draconis individuals are found in the live trade, they are used less often than other sea moth species (Pajaro et al. 2004).

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.

Sea moths in general 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).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Eurypegasus draconis may be found in some Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Philippines as well as Australia, including the Great Barrier Reef. No other conservation measures are in place. The species is not mentioned in any international legislation or trade regulations. Harvest control rules and further population and trade monitoring are needed.

Citation: Pollom, R. 2017. Eurypegasus draconis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T8407A67625953. . Downloaded on 22 June 2018.
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