The Beautiful Sea Dragons

 

Leafy Sea Dragon With Black Spots

Meet the Sea Dragon.  I was so captivated by his colors and his demeanor of this beautiful and compelling creature that my fiancée and I saw on this sea program

Quick Sea Dragon Facts
Quick Sea Dragon Facts

watched on Netflix last week that I wanted to share this amazing creature with you.  Have you ever seen such a creature before?  I hadn’t before watching it on that program.  I thought it was a sea-horse or some relative of the sea-horse.  It is indeed a relative o the Sea Horse.  You can find this small and delicate fish in the tropical coastal waters of west and south Australia.

There are two different species of the Sea Dragons. the weedy Sea Dragon and the leafy Dragon.  The are both about the same size, but they look very different in appearance.

Leafy Sea Dragon at Birch Aquarium in San Diego, CA
Leafy Sea Dragon at Birch Aquarium in San Diego, CA

 

The Leafy Sea Dragon is an expert at camouflaging himself.  He is able to blend himself in rather well among the leafy greenery on the seafloor and avoid getting found.  Despite having many predators, he is able to hide himself quite well and rarely gets eaten.

 

 

On the other hand, the Weedy Sea Dragon is not so elaborately adorned.  With only a few feathery fins

A weedy seadragon shot at the New England Aquarium.
A weedy seadragon shot at the New England Aquarium.

along his back(weed-like fins), it is those fins that have helped him adapt to life among the debris on the seafloor and the sea bed.

Despite being small, these little animals are carnivorous and their diet is completely composed of meat.  Using their pipe-like mouth, they suck their food up into their toothless mouth.  Using their camouflage to their advantage, Sea Dragons hunt crustaceans, plankton, shrimp, and even small fish.

Just like their relatives the Sea Horses, it is the male Sea Dragon that cares for the eggs.  The female deposits the eggs on the male.  She lays about 250 eggs onto the long tail of the male and he will care for them for nine weeks until they hatch.  The whole egg hatching process takes over 24-48 hours.  He aids in the hatching by shaking his tail and rubbing it against rocks and seaweed.  The eggs then turn a ripe purple or orange.

Pregnant Weedy Sea Dragon
Pregnant Male Weedy Sea Dragon

 

LeafySeaDragon
Pregnant Male Leafy Sea Dragon

 

High resolution close-up image of pregnant Sea Dragon
High resolution close-up image of pregnant male Sea Dragon

When the baby sea dragons hatch, they fed upon tiny particles in the water.  It takes them up to a year to become the size of adults.  They are completely independant of the adults after birth.

Baby Leafy Sea Dragon, approx. One Week Old
Baby Leafy Sea Dragon, approx. One Week Old

These beautiful marine animals are near threatened.  They are known as “leafies”, are the national marine of the state of Australia, and local marine conservatory.

There name is derived from the mythical creature, the dragon, that they resemble.  They live a solitary lifestyle and only pair up when it is time to mate.  By the time they reached 28 months, they have reached sexual maturity.  Only 5% of eggs survive.

To move, the Sea Dragon uses the fins on either side of its head to steer and turn.  Because its skin outer skin is fairly rigid, it limits its mobility.  Individual sea dragons had been observed remaining in one spot for extended periods of times.  One had been observed in one spot for 68 hours.  Tracking it resulted that it only moved 490ft per hour.

Sea Dragons face threats from both natural predators and man.  They are sought by collectors and those who use them in natural medicine.  They are extremely vulnerable when they are born and slow swimmers, which reduces their chances of escape.  They often are washed ashore after a storm because unlike their cousins the Sea Horses, they are unable to curl their tail and wrap it around seagrass to stay safe.

They have also been endangered through pollution and industrial runoff, as well as being collected by fascinated divers, who are also as entranced by their appearance as I am.  Though I know better and have enough compassion to leave these beautiful and mystical creatures where God put them in the first place.  Because of this, they have become a protected species since 1987 in South Australia, in Victoria since at least 1995, and Western Australia since 1991.  Additionally, the species’ listing in the Australian government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 means that the welfare of the species has to be considered as a part of any developmental project.

Weedy Sea Dragon
Weedy Sea Dragon

 

See you next time, my lovely readers!

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