Life List: Slender Sea Moth

Slender Sea Moth, Pegasus volitans from Dumaguete, Philippines. photo courtesy Ken Marks

Part of getting ready for a dive trip is assembling our “hit list” of species we might encounter. A lot of our luck in finding unusual or rare species comes from knowing in advance, what is even possible. In 1999, on our first trip to Lembeh Strait, Jeremy Barnes showed us a pair of Pegasus Sea Moths, Eurypegasus draconis, puttering around the black sand slope at the dive site, Nudi Retreat. I was totally unprepared – had no idea such an odd little fish existed. That dive was one of the defining moments for my love affair with muck.

We learned the family contains five species in two genera and that the Slender Sea Moth, Pegasus volitans, has also been recorded in Lembeh. Another, the very rare Pegasus laternarius is reported from Flores. However, the only species we saw over the years was the Pegasus Sea Moth. Last year, during an extended trip to the Philippines (our first), we were even treated to a beautiful yellow pair right off the beach in Puerto Galera. Here are a couple of shots taken from my video:

Pegasus Sea Moth, Eurypegasus draconis from Lembeh
Pegasus Sea Moth, Eurypegasus draconis from Puerto Galera

Sea Moths are notorious for turning away from the camera. Herding the fish doesn’t work so well for video, because they panic and no one wants to watch a panicked, fleeing fish. For some reason they don’t seem to mind as much if I hover directly over them shooting down, so that view, along with a few tail shots, is mostly what I have in my Sea Moth video archive.

We spent the second half of the month in Dumaguete, an area well known for its muck diving. On our second day there, while finishing our dive in the shallows, I stared at a small black twig and my brain slowly came to terms with what I was seeing. The “twig” morphed into a fish we had long wanted to see – Pegasus volitans, the Slender Sea Moth! Added to my life list!