Leafy & Weedy Sea Dragons

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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 and weedy sea dragons are closely related to seahorses and pipefish. As with sea horses, sea dragon males are responsible for childbearing. But instead of a pouch, like sea horses have, male sea dragons have a spongy brood patch on the underside of the tail where females deposit their bright-pink eggs during mating. The eggs are fertilized during the transfer from the female to the male. The males incubate the eggs and carry them to term, releasing miniature sea dragons into the water after about four to six weeks.

Leafy Sea Dragon
Leafy Sea Dragon

Leafies are generally brown to yellow in body color with spectacular olive-tinted appendages.

Weedy Sea Dragon By PT Hirschfield
Weedy Sea Dragon By PT Hirschfield

Weedies have less flamboyant projections and are usually reddish in color with yellow spots. The male are darker in color than the females.

Sea dragons have very long, thin snouts; slender trunks covered in bony rings; and thin tails which, unlike their seahorse cousins, cannot be used for gripping. They have small, transparent dorsal and pectoral fins that propel and steer them awkwardly through the water, but they seem quite content to tumble and drift in the current like seaweed. Leafies grow to a length of about 14 inches (35 centimeters), while the slightly larger weedies can grow up to 18 inches (46 centimeters) long.

Sea dragons are carnivores survive on tiny crustaceans such as mysids, or sea lice. It is not known if they are preyed upon by other animals.

Leafies & Weedy Sea Dragons are endemic to South & East Australia.

Pollution and habitat loss have also hurt their numbers, and they are currently listed as near threatened.

 

Related Article: Weedy Seadragons

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January 12, 2017 |

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