Little Dragonfish, Eurypegasus draconis Click to enlarge image
A Little Dragonfish at a depth of 12 m, Odyssea Point 1,off Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, 18 October 2009. Image: Erik Schlögl
© Erik Schlögl

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    draconis
    Genus
    Eurypegasus
    Family
    Pegasidae
    Order
    Syngnathiformes
    Class
    Actinopterygii
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    The species grows to 8 cm in length.

Introduction

The Little Dragonfish is an unusual looking fish. It's body is encased in hard bony armour.



Identification

The Little Dragonfish can be recognised by its distinctive shape and bony armour. The species often resembles pieces of shell or rubble lying on the bottom. It can be extremely difficult to spot underwater because of its impressive camouflage. Males have a broad blue-white pectoral fin margin which may be "flashed" when the fish is disturbed.

The genus Eurypegasus contains two species, Eurypegasus draconis and Eurypegasus papilio. These fish are easily separated based on distribution. E.papilio is known only to occur in the Hawaiian Islands.

The other genus in this family is Pegasus. Eurypegasus draconis can be distinguished from Pegasus by the lower number of tail rings, 8 rarely 9, versus 11 or more in Pegasus.

Fishes in the family Pegasidae are generally less than 15 cm in length, although specimens up to 18 cm have been reported.


Pegasus pauciradiatus B.9207
Junior synonym (2004) Eurypegasus draconis. Image: Mark Allen
© Australian Museum

Habitat

The species lives in estuaries and silty areas.

Distribution

The Little Dragonfish occurs in tropical and warm temperate marine waters of the Indian Ocean to the Central Pacific. In Australia it is known from north-western Western Australia, and from northern Queensland to central New South Wales.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.



References

  1. Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. parts 1-3, pages 1-2178.
  2. Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433. Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. Pp. 437.
  3. Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Seahorses, Pipefishes and their Relatives. A Comprehensive Guide to Syngnathiformes. TMC Publishing Pp. 240.
  4. Paxton, J.R., D.F. Hoese, G.R. Allen & J.E. Hanley. 1989. Zoological Catalogue of Australia Vol.7 Pisces Petromyzontidae to Carangidae. Canberra: Australian Biological Resources Survey. Pp. i-xii, 1-665.
  5. Palsson, W.A. & T.W. Pietsch. 1989. Revision of the Acanthopterygian Fish Family Pegasidae (Order Gasterosteiformes). Indo-Pacific Fishes. 18: 1-38.