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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrate > fishes
Slender seamoth
Pegasus volitans
Family Pegasidae
updated Sep 2020
if you learn only 3 things about them ...
Their large pectoral fins are often spread out, thus they resemble moths.
They have a long stiff snout and a bony outer skeleton, like the seahorse.
They are collected for the traditional Chinese medicine trade.

Where seen? This odd long-nosed fish with wings is sometimes seen on some of our shores. At some times of the year, several may be seen on a single trip and then not to be seen again for some time. An active little fish, it is sometimes seen swimming about among seagrasses especially at night. Seamoths probably got their name for their long, stiff snouts and the pair of broad, fan-like pectoral fins. They are also called Sea robins.

What are seamoths? Seamoths belong to Family Pegasiidae. According to FishBase: the family has 2 genera and 5 species. They are found in the Indo-West Pacific. They are sometimes also called sea robins or dragonfishes. Some scientists place them with the seahorse in the Family Syngnathidae. Pegasus is the winged horse of Greek mythology. In one version of the myth, Pegasus was the son of Poseidon, God of the Sea and Medusa.

4-6cm. Body hard, enclosed by a bony skeleton of rigid plates. The tail is enclosed in bony rings. It has a long stiff pointed snout that is made up of modified nose bones. The small mouth is found under the snout. The mouth is protrusible, i.e., it can stick out of the body. The snout usually has a white or pale tip. It has large pectoral fins that are held out horizontally and often spread out like wings. The gill openings are small. Adult slender seamoths come in various colours and patterns, usually camouflaging. Young slender seamoths are sometimes all black.

Seamoths are adapted for bottom-dwelling and lack swim-bladders. The Slender seamoth (Pegasus volitans) is reported to "walk" over the bottom using its pelvic fins which are reduced to a pair of slender structures.

A study of captive specimens observed the fish to shed its skin in one piece with a rapid jump, to get rid of unwanted parasites or encrusting algae on their skin. One species can bury themselves in the sand and change colours to match their surroundings.

Changi, Aug 03

Pasir Ris, Apr 10

Changi, May 08

Changi, May 05
Seamoth babies: Seamoths are believed to have social behaviour and form monogamous pair bonds. Unlike seahorses, they don't brood their young. They spawn in open water near the surface, and the juveniles may float on open waters for some time before settling down in a sheltered place near the shore.

What do they eat? They are predators, feeding on tiny creatures on the sea bottom. These are sucked up with their small, toothless mouths found under the snout.

Human uses: Seamoths are collected for use in traditional Chinese medicine, like their unfortunate cousins the seahorses and pipefishes. This puts pressure on wild populations.

Slender seamoths on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

Pasir Ris Park, Jan 20
Photo shared by Kelvin Yong on facebook.

Tuas, Dec 14
Photo shared by Heng Pei Yan on her blog.

Chek Jawa, Jan 16
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on flickr.

Changi, Aug 12
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on flickr.

Changi, May 11

Changi, May 08
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on flickr.

Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Tanah Merah, Aug 09
Photo shared by James Koh on his blog.

East Coast Park, Aug 18
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook.

St John's Island, Feb 24
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on facebook.

Pulau Hantu, Mar 10
Photo shared by James Koh on flickr.

Kusu Island, Jun 15
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on flickr.

Kusu Island, Sep 10
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Cyrene Reef, Aug 11
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.

Cyrene Reef, Apr 18
Photo shared by Abel Yeo on facebook.

Cyrene Reef, Apr 23
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Pulau Semakau South, Mar 19
Photo shared by Abel Yeo on facebook.

Pulau Semakau South, Feb 16
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook.

Filmed on Chek Jawa, Feb 10

SeaMoth and Baby from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

Family Pegasidae recorded for Singapore
from Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.
**from WORMS
+Other additions (Singapore Biodiversity Records, etc)

  Family Pegasidae
  Parapegasus natans=**Pegasus volitans

+Pegasus laternarius
(Brick seamoth)
Pegasus volitans
(Slender seamoth)

Links References
  • Kelvin K. P. Lim & Jasond Ong. 9 October 2015. New record of brick seamoth in Singapore. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2015: 150
  • Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore. National Council on the Environment. 163pp.
  • Allen, Gerry, 2000. Marine Fishes of South-East Asia: A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Periplus Editions. 292 pp.
  • Kuiter, Rudie H. 2002. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia: A Comprehensive Reference for Divers & Fishermen New Holland Publishers. 434pp.
  • Lieske, Ewald and Robert Myers. 2001. Coral Reef Fishes of the World Periplus Editions. 400pp.
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