Amazing Creatures: The Leafy Sea Dragon

James R. Coffey By James R. Coffey, 3rd Oct 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1k19w3w5/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Nature>Fish

One of the most stunningly elegant creatures of the deep, the amazing Leafy Sea Dragon is a marvel to behold, and a reminder of nature’s untold beauty.

Glauerts Seadragon

The “Leafy Sea Dragon,” (Glauerts Seadragon), is a marine fish of the family Syngnathidae, which also includes seahorses and pipefish. Its name is derived from the long leaf-like protrusions coming from all over its body which it uses for camouflage, as well as its resemblance to the mythical dragon.

Indigenous to the southern and western coasts of Australia (though in recent years has been encountered in the Indian Ocean), the Seadragon is only slightly larger than most seahorses, growing only to about 8–10 inches, with a diet consisting almost exclusively of plankton, small crustaceans, and mysids. Oddly, for sea creatures with this type of diet, Seadragons do not have teeth, but instead utilize a long, pipe-like snout to feed. (Larger Seadragons have been known to eat shrimp and even small fish by this method.)

Propelled by means of small fins located on the ridge of its neck that are almost completely transparent, and a dorsal fin near its tail, Seadragons maintain an illusion of floating seaweed. Only able to move at top speeds of about 490 feet per hour, Seadragons are difficult to see as they move serenely through the water. They can also change color to blend in, but this ability apparently depends on the Seadragon’s diet, age, location, and stress level.

Mating and survival

As with most syngnathids, Seadragon mating occurs during the Summer months. The female produces up to 250 bright pink eggs, which she then deposits on the exposed underside of the male’s tail using a long delivery tube. The eggs then attach themselves to a brood patch (Seadragons do not have “pouches” like seahorses), which supplies them with needed oxygen. In that Seadragons do not posses the ability to grab onto rocks or sea grass for stabilization as seahorses do, they are often at the mersy of the ocean currents, which is one theory as to why their territory seems to be expanding.

Depending on environmental conditions, it can take up to 9 weeks for the eggs to begin to hatch, during which time the eggs turn a ripe purple or orange. When incubation is complete, the male shakes its tail or rubs it against a rock until the infants emerge, a process usually taking up to 48 hours to complete. Once born, the tiny Seadragons are completely independent, but only able to eat small zooplankton until large enough to graduate to mysids. In that it requires over 2 years for a Seadragon to reach maturity, it is estimated that only about 5% survive to adulthood.

Federal protection measures

As of 1999, Seadragons, most pipe horses and seahorses living in Australian waters are protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999. It is an offence to “take, trade, injure or kill marine species” listed under this act, except under permits issued by the Minister of the Environment. In 2005, the Leafy Sea Dragon became the official marine emblem of the state of South Australia, with a biennial Leafy Sea Dragon Festival held by the District Council of Yankalilla, South Australia. A festival geared to environmental awareness, arts, and the culture of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula, the overall theme is the celebration of this beautiful and extraordinary creature. The inaugural festival in 2005 attracted over 7,000 participants and visitors.

images via flickr
For more information go to the official website of South Australia
A personal thanks to Julia for her beautiful footage.

Tags

Glauerts Seadragon, Leafy Seadragon, Sea Horses, Seadragon, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia

Meet the author

author avatar James R. Coffey
I am founder and head writer for James R. Coffey Writing Services and Resource Center @ http://james-r-coffey-writing-services.blogspot.com/ where I offer a variety of writing and research services including article composition, ghostwriting, editing...(more)

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Comments

author avatar Jerry Walch
8th Nov 2010 (#)

An amazing creature, James. I had never heard of it before.

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author avatar James R. Coffey
8th Nov 2010 (#)

Me neither. But I had to admit it's pretty cool!

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
6th Dec 2010 (#)

my wifes father is a professional fish expert. He has books and books on unsual fish like these.

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author avatar James R. Coffey
6th Dec 2010 (#)

Yeah, they're discovering new extremophiles all the time. Lots more to see!

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