Slender Seamoth, Pegasus volitans Linnaeus 1758

Other Names: Longtail Seamoth, Long-tailed Dragonfish, Long-tailed Dragon-fish, Pelagic Dragon-fish, Sea Moth, Winged Dragonfish

A Slender Seamoth, Pegasus volitans, in Nelson Bay, New South Wales. Source: Dave Harasti / License: All rights reserved


Slender Seamoths are somewhat flattened, with a slender, tapered body and a long tapered snout. Although capable of rapid colour change to match the surroundings, the body is usually brownish with a darker reticulated pattern.

Video of Little Dragonfish (Eurypegasus draconis) and a Slender Seamoth.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2018, Pegasus volitans in Fishes of Australia, accessed 28 May 2024,

Slender Seamoth, Pegasus volitans Linnaeus 1758

More Info


Known in Australian waters from about Waroona, Western Australia, around the tropical north to about Shellharbour, New South Wales. Elsewhere, the species is widespread in the tropical Indo-west Pacific, from East Africa and the Arabian Gulf, to Australia and north to southern Japan. 

Individuals or pairs inhabit shallow bays, estuaries and coastal reefs, preferring muddy, rubble and sandy bottoms or seagrass beds in depths to 75 m, although usually above 30 m.


Dorsal fin 5; Anal fin 5; Pectoral fin 10-12 (usually 11); Caudal fin 8; Carapace rings 3; Tail rings 12.

Body long, slender, tapering, carapace depressed, slender in adults; rostrum short in juveniles, long and tapered in adults, with lateral hook-like serrations; tail slender, flexible, posterior three rings fused with lateral retrorse spines.


Attains a total length of about 18 cm.


Slender Seamoths vary in colour to match their surroundings, and range from being very pale on sandy bottoms to almost black.


Although Slender Seamoths do not possess tubular mouths, they have a specialised protrusible mouth which they can form into a tube. They crawl or ‘walk’ over the bottom on their paired pelvic fins in search of small crustaceans, worms and molluscs which are sucked from burrows.


The sexes are separate and fertilisation is external. Males and females form monogamous pairs and are pelagic spawners, releasing eggs and sperm into the water column. 

Larvae hatch at <1.4 mm, and settle at >6.7 mm. Small larvae are enclosed by a dermal sac, have large fan-shaped, horizontally orientated pectoral fins; body dorsoventrally compressed; tail laterally compressed; dermal body plates present by 2 mm.


Seamoths are taken as bycatch in commercial trawl fisheries. They are traded in several southeast Asian countries in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) industry, and are also sold as curios.


IUCN Red list: Data Deficient

NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994: Protected species.


Large adults are common in Moreton Bay tidal channels, on rubble in open seagrass patches.

Similar Species

The similar Pegasus tetrabelos differs from the similar Slender Seamoth in having  anteriorly and posteriorly directed spines on the last dorso-lateral and ventro-lateral plates (vs. absent in Pvolitans), terminal-lateral plates absent (vs. present in P. volitans); shorter tail ring XII spine (1.9–3.0 vs. 4.1–5.5% SL in P. volitans), spines on lateral tail ridges demarcate earlier (posterior tail ring IX vs. posterior tail ring X–XI or not demarcating in P. volitans); wider tail ring X (width 4.1–5.0 vs. 3.4–4.0% SL in P. volitans), 4 dark caudal saddles, no prominent saddle on tail ring XI (vs. 5 dark caudal saddles including prominent saddle on tail ring XI in P. volitans); pectoral-fin rays usually 10 (vs. usually 11 in P. volitans); 5th pectoral-fin ray stout (vs. not stouter than adjacent rays in P. volitans); single ventral preopercular notch (vs. double ventral preopercular notch in P. volitans); carapace with three small posteriorly directed tubercles along each dorsal ridge, one at the centre of each dorsal plate (vs. no posteriorly directed tubercles in P. volitans). Lateral keels are often comparatively more defined and posteriorly-directed in Ptetrabelosthan in P. volitans.


The specific name volitans is from the Latin volitans, meaning to fly.

Species Citation

Pegasus volitans Linnaeus 1758, Systema Naturae, 10th ed.: 338. Type locality: India, Ambon, Indonesia.


Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2018


Australian Faunal Directory

Slender Seamoth, Pegasus volitans Linnaeus 1758


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37309002

Conservation:IUCN Data Deficient

Depth:1-75 m

Habitat:Soft bottom, reef associated

Max Size:18 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map