Creature Feature: Leafy Sea Dragon

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Common Facts:

Scientific name –Phycodurus eques

Size – Up to 16 inches long

Diet – Krill, mysids, sea lice

Range – South and Western Australia

If you were scuba diving along the rocky reefs of Southern and Western Australia, you might never spot one of the beautiful Leafy sea dragon! For a couple of different reasons. First, these fish are rare. And second, they are camouflaged to blend in perfectly with the seaweeds and seagrass around them!

Leafy sea dragons are related to sea horses, and have a similar body type—except they don’t use their tail to grip things like sea horses do. And they have some extra frills that seahorses do not. “Sea dragons are some of the most ornately camouflaged creatures on the planet. Adorned with gossamer, leaf-shaped appendages over their entire bodies, they are perfectly outfitted to blend in with the seaweed and kelp formations they live amongst.”

Leafy sea dragons have small dorsal and pectoral fins that they use to awkwardly swim through the water. Although a lot of the time, they enjoy just letting the current carry them, like the seaweed they are mimicking.

Something interesting about Leafy sea dragons is that the males are the ones that do the child-bearing! The females deposit their eggs on a brood patch the males have on the underside of their tails. The eggs are fertilized in this process, and then the males carry them for 4-6 weeks until they hatch. Luckily for the parents, the work is then done. Baby sea dragons are independent from birth.

Due to their excellent camouflaging skills, Leafy sea dragons have very few predators, outside of humans. Humans love to catch them and keep them as pets because they are such beautiful creatures. Australia currently has a ban on hunting/fishing/disturbing Leafy sea dragons in the hopes that their numbers will increase.

Sources:

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/fishes/leafy-sea-dragon

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/sea-dragon/

 

Written by: Kari Shirley, intern

 

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