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Overview

Brief Summary

The fish family Pegasidae, the “sea moths”, includes just five species (placed in two genera) but is represented in temperate and tropical coastal zones throughout the Indo-Pacific. All sea moths are small (no more than than ~180 mm total length), benthic (bottom-dwelling), and very well camouflaged. They commonly occur in relatively shallow coastal waters in open sand or mud substrate in calm areas. (Palsson and Pietsch 1989, cited in Pajaro et al. 2004)

The Short Dragonfish (Eurypegasus draconis) is the most widely distributed pegasid, occurring throughout the tropical and subtropical Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and western and central Pacific. It is one of several pegasid species that can be found in bays and estuaries. The maximum recorded length is 77 mm. This species has been collected from depths as shallow as 3 m or less, but usually occurs between 37 and 91m (Palsson and Pietsch 1989, cited in Herold and Clark 1993).

Herold and Clark (1993) studied this species in the field (in the Red Sea) and in captivity. They found E. draconis at depths between 1.1 and 18.3 m in areas where coastal coral reefs were disrupted by channels and lagoons and where the bottom consisted of sand and rubble, sometimes with the seagrass Halophila stipulacea, and only occasionally with patches of corals. The authors noted in their observations that individual fish were able to change color to match their background. During the day, fish crawled slowly over the seafloor using their pelvic fins alternately, swimming only if disturbed. They became inactive after sunset and did not resume crawling until after sunrise. To feed, these fish moved their snouts very close to the food. The mouth would then protrude forward and downward, producing an inhalant current that sucked the food item into the mouth. Analysis of stomach contents revealed isopods, isopod eggs, decapod larvae, harpacticoids, copepods, copepod larvae, goby eggs, and stones up to 1 mm in diameter. Polychaetes, nematodes, trematodes, Alpheus (pistol) shrimp, post-veliger mollusks, and foraminiferans were also found.

A curious behavior seen in these fish is that they sheds their skins in one piece, probably every one to five days, a process described in some detail by Herold and Clark (1993). Herold and Clark (1993) also discuss evidence suggesting monogamy in this species, as well as other aspects of social and reproductive behavior.

Although sea moths are not harvested for food, Vincent (1997) estimated that millions of sea moths are sold for traditional medicine each year in China and Hong Kong alone, with supplies coming from China, Vietnam, and possibly other areas in Southeast Asia. Live sea moths are sold in the aquarium trade. Pajaro et al. (2004) studied the sea moth fishery in the Philippines, which involves both Eurypegasus draconis and Pegasus volitans. This trade includes both dead fish (taken mostly as bycatch but sold for the traditional medicine trade) and live fish for the aquarium trade. Although the sea moth fishery was not of great economic significance, the very substantial numbers of fish taken may have a seriously negative impact on populations in the Philippines. (Herold and Clark 1993; Pajaro et al. 2004)

  • Herold, D. and E. Clark. 1993. Monogamy, spawning and skin-shedding of the seamoth, Eurypegasus draconis (Pisces:Pegasidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 37: 219-236.
  • Pajaro, M. G., Meeuwig, J. J., Giles, B. G., & A.C. Vincent. 2004. Biology, fishery and trade of sea moths (Pisces: Pegasidae) in the central Philippines. Oryx 38(4): 432–438.
  • Palsson, W.A. and T.W. Pietsch. 1989. Revision of the Acanthopterygian Fish Family Pegasidae (Order Gasterosteiformes). 38 pp., 8 col. figs. Ichthyology Collection of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.
  • Vincent, A.C.J. 1997. Trade in pegasid fishes (sea moths), primarily for traditional Chinese medicine. Oryx 31 (3): 199-208.
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Comprehensive Description

Biology

Inhabit lagoons often among algal or seagrass beds (Ref. 5503). Found on sand or silt bottoms, frequently in bays or estuaries (Ref. 3132). They are opportunistic feeders that collect mainly epifaunal and interstitial invertebrate prey, e.g., crustaceans and worms from the sediment-water interface (Ref. 31134). Shed their skin in one piece with a rapid jump periodically to rid themselves of accumulated ballast (Ref. 31134). Adults usually in pairs on muddy substrates (Ref. 48635).
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Distribution

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).
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Indo-Pacific: Red Sea and South Africa (Ref. 4264) to Marquesan and Society Islands, north to southern Japan, south to Australia and Lord Howe Island; throughout Micronesia.
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Red Sea, Indo-West Pacific: East Africa, Madagascar and western Mascarenes east to Marshall Islands and Marquesas Islands, north to southern Japan, south to Dampier Archipelago (Western Australia), New South Wales (Australia), Lord Howe Island and New Cal
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Physical Description

Morphology

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 5; Analspines: 0; Analsoft rays: 5; Vertebrae: 19 - 22
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Size

Maximum size: 100 mm TL
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Max. size

10.0 cm TL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 3132))
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Diagnostic Description

Description

Inhabits lagoons often among algal or seagrass beds (Ref. 5503). Found on sand or silt bottoms, frequently in bays or estuaries (Ref. 3132). Feeds on minute invertebrates (crustaceans and worms).
  • Anon. (1996). FishBase 96 [CD-ROM]. ICLARM: Los Baños, Philippines. 1 cd-rom pp.
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Color in life variable; body usually light to dark brown, with dorsal and lateral area darker than ventral surface. Pectoral fins hyaline, distal margin white and spotted. Pelvic fin spine and 1st ray forming an elongate, tentacular structure. 3 pairs of dorsolateral body plates; 4 pairs of ventrolateral body plates; tail rings 8 (rarely 9), mobile. A pair of deep pits posterior to orbit. Suborbital shelf concave, eye visible in ventral view. Ventral ridges of rostrum greatly expanded than dorsal ridges, each with laterally directed denticles. Anal papilla absent.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

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.

Reproduction
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).

Diet
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).

Systems
  • Marine
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Environment

reef-associated; brackish; marine; depth range 3 - 91 m (Ref. 26165), usually 35 - 90 m (Ref. 33989)
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Depth range based on 69 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 36 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 27 - 79
  Temperature range (°C): 24.049 - 26.503
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.164 - 2.844
  Salinity (PPS): 34.917 - 35.503
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.107 - 4.855
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.083 - 0.431
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.777 - 6.408

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 27 - 79

Temperature range (°C): 24.049 - 26.503

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.164 - 2.844

Salinity (PPS): 34.917 - 35.503

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.107 - 4.855

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.083 - 0.431

Silicate (umol/l): 0.777 - 6.408
 
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Depth: 3 - 91m.
From 3 to 91 meters.

Habitat: demersal.
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Trophic Strategy

Inhabit lagoons often among algal or seagrass beds (Ref. 5503). Found on sand or silt bottoms, frequently in bays or estuaries (Ref. 3132). They are opportunistic feeders that collect mainly epifaunal and interstitial invertebrate prey, e.g., crustaceans and worms from the sediment-water interface (Ref. 9137).
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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Are broadcast spawners. In several aquaria, spawning is observed as pairs rose to about 50 cm above the substrate, their ventral surfaces closely opposed, releasing gametes at the apex of their upward rush; then they glided down to the bottom. As the pairs landed on the substrate, the male continued to follow his mate. Release of gametes follows. Spawning occurred only within pairs.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Eurypegasus draconis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ACACGCTGATTTTTTTCAACTAATCATAAAGATATTGGCACCCTTTACTTAGTCTTTGGTGCATGAGCTGGTATAGTAGGCACAGCCCTC---AGCCTCTTAATCCGAGCTGAACTAAGCCAACCCGGAGCCCTTCTGGGAGAC---GACCAGATTTACAATGTTATCGTCACTGCACATGCTTTTGTTATAATTTTCTTTATAGTAATGCCTATTATAATTGGAGGTTTTGGCAATTGATTAATTCCCCTAATA---ATTGGGGCCCCAGATATAGCCTTCCCACGAATGAATAACATGAGCTTCTGACTACTTCCTCCATCTTTTCTTCTACTTTTAGCATCATCTGGAGTTGAAGCCGGGGCCGGAACAGGTTGAACAGTGTACCCTCCGCTAGCAGGAAATCTTGCTCACGCTGGAGCCTCTGTAGACCTT---ACTATTTTTTCACTGCACCTAGCTGGTATCTCATCTATTCTTGGGGCTATTAATTTCATCACAACAATTATTAATATAAAACCTCCCGCTATTTCACAATATCAAACACCTTTGTTTGTATGATCAGTTTTAATTACAGCTGTCCTTCTTCTCCTTTCATTACCAGTCTTAGCAGCA---GGGATTACAATGCTACTTACAGATCGAAATCTTAATACCACCTTTTTTGACCCGGCAGGAGGAGGAGACCCAATTCTATACCAACACCTCTTTTGATTTTTTGGTCACCCCGAAGTATATATTCTAATTTTACCTGGATTTGGAATAATCTCACACATTGTAGCCTATTATGCAGGTAAAAAA---GAACCCTTTGGTTATATAGGAATGGTGTGAGCAATAATAGCAATCGGCCTTCTAGGATTCATTGTGTGAGCCCACCATATGTTTACAGTAGGTATAGACGTAGACACCCGTGCTTATTTTACATCCGCAACAATAATTATTGCTATTCCCACAGGTGTTAAAGTATTTAGCTGATTA---GCCACTCTTCATGGAGGC---TCAATTAAATGAGAAACCCCCATATTATGAGCTCTTGGATTCATCTTCTTATTTACAGTAGGCGGATTGACAGGCATTGTTCTTGCCAACTCATCCCTTGACATTGTCTTGCATGATACCTACTATGTCGTAGCCCACTTCCACTATGTA---CTTTCTATAGGAGCCGTATTTGCTATTATAGCAGGATTTGTGCATTGATTCCCATTATTTACAGGTTATACACTTCACAGTGTTTGAACAAAACTTCATTTCGGAGTAATATTTGTGGGGGTAAATTTAACATTTTTCCCACAACACTTCCTAGGTTTAGCAGGAATACCTCGT---CGATACTCTGACTACCCGGACGCATACGCC---CTATGAAATTTAGTATCATCTGTAGGCTCTTTAGTATCATTAATTGCTGTAATCATGTTTTTATTCATTGTTTGAGAAGCATTCGCAGCCAAACGAGAAGTA---ATACTAGTAGAACTGACTGCAACTAAT
-- end --

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Eurypegasus draconis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
DD
Data Deficient

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2010

Assessor/s
Sorensen, M.& Vincent, A.

Reviewer/s
Curtis, J. & O’Donnell, K.

Contributor/s

Justification

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.


History
  • 1996
    Data Deficient
    (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
  • 1996
    Data Deficient
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Population

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.

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
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.
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Data deficient (DD)
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Management

Conservation Actions

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.
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Wikipedia

Little dragonfish


The little dragonfish or short dragonfish, among various other vernacular names, Eurypegasus draconis, is a species of marine fish in the family Pegasidae.[2]

The little dragonfish is widespread throughout the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific, Red Sea included.[3][4]

This small fish can grow up to 10 cm (3.9 in) length.

Taxonomic synonyms[edit]

  • Cataphractus draco Gronow, 1854
  • Europegasus draconis (Linnaeus, 1766) (misspelling)
  • Pegassus draco Shaw, 1804 (misspelling)
  • Pegasus draco Shaw, 1804
  • Pegasus draconis Linnaeus, 1766
  • Pegasus latirostris Richardson, 1846
  • Pegasus pauciradiatus Ogilby, 1886
  • Pegasus umitengu (Jordan & Snyder, 1901)
  • Surypegasus draconis (Linnaeus, 1766)
  • Zalises draconis (Linnaeus, 1766)
  • Zalises umitengu Jordan & Snyder, 1901

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sorensen, M.& Vincent, A. 2010. Eurypegasus draconis. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 19 October 2013.
  2. ^ http://www.fishbase.org/comnames/CommonNamesList.php?ID=4606&GenusName=Eurypegasus&SpeciesName=draconis&StockCode=4793
  3. ^ http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/8407/0
  4. ^ http://doris.ffessm.fr/fiche2.asp?fiche_numero=405
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