Weedy Seadragons

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One of the popular species of seahorses is the Weedy Sea Dragon. It can blend in very well to the surroundings. In fact, you may have seen them but thought you were just viewing various types of weeds floating around in the body of water.

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. Endemic to the waters off south and east Australia, weedy sea dragons are closely related to seahorses and pipefish.

weedy-seadragon

Weedy seadragons are one of only two species of seadragons, the second is known as the leafy seadragon.

Description

Seadragons resemble the seahorses to which they are related, having a bony-plated body and elongated snout. They can reach a maximum length of 15 inches but they are typically much smaller than that – around 12 inches.  Males have narrower bodies and are darker than femalesThey are colored based on what is around them. Usually they are a green or a tan color to match the colors of the various weeds that would be around them in a natural setting. They have a body that seems to have many ridges and details in it compared to many other species out there.  Males have narrower bodies and are darker than females

Behavior

Since the Weedy Sea Dragon doesn’t have a prehensile tail they aren’t able to anchor. These fish are slow-moving and rely on their camouflage as protection against predation; they drift in the water and with the leaf-like appendages resemble the swaying seaweed of their habitat.

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

Distribution

The Southern coastline and the Western regions of Australia are home to the Weedy Sea Dragon. Some portions of Tasmania also feature them.

Habitat

Inhabiting coastal waters down to at least 50 metres deep, weedy seadragons are associated with rocky reefs, seaweed beds, seagrass meadows and structures colonised by seaweed

Diet /Feeding

Plankton, small shrimp, and various forms of crustaceans are the diet for the Weedy Sea Dragon. They often have to look in small crevices and other out of the way places for their food. Since these seahorses do blend into the surroundings so well though it is easy for them to catch prey off guard.

All prey is swallowed whole through their snout and down a pipe. They don’t have a digestive system which is why they eat often and they eat slowly. They can only consume food that is the size of their snout or smaller. As various types of prey get larger they will have to be passed over.

Reproduction

When a pair are ready to mate they will take several days to do so. First they are going to spend time with a variety or rituals that are called courtship. This allows them to mimic the movements of each other. Only when they have that down can the females put the eggs into a sponge like patch on the tail. This is one of the few species of seahorses where the male doesn’t have a pouch to hold the eggs.

Like all seahorses it is the male who will carry them and give birth to them. The gestation period is about 8 weeks. As the young emerge they will instinctively be able to care for themselves. This can be tough to do though with an array of predators around including penguins and fish.

The mortality rate is about 98% in the wild for this particular species of seahorse. That is why with high numbers of them being captured for commercial fishing and to use for medicine they are dropping fast in their overall numbers in the wild.

 

Source: National Geographic Animals, Seahorse World, Arkive

Related Article: Leafy & Weedy Sea Dragons

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January 10, 2017 |

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