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The sea dragon, or seadragon, is a small fish found in shallow coastal waters of Tasmania and southern and western Australia. The animals resemble seahorses in terms of size and body shape, but feature small, leaf-like fins that camouflage them from predators. While seahorses can grip objects with their tails, sea dragon tails are not prehensile.
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Sea dragons awkwardly propel themselves with their transparent dorsal and pectoral fins, but mainly drift with current. There are two phyla and three species of sea dragons. Sea dragon mouths lack teeth, yet these animals are carnivores.
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They use their snouts to suck up larval fish and small crustaceans, such as plankton , mysid shrimp, and amphipods. Presumably, numerous species would eat sea dragons, but their camouflage is sufficient to protect them from most attacks. Except for mating, sea dragons are solitary animals.
Seadragon dads incubate young
They reach sexual maturity by one to two years of age, at which time the males court females. A female produces up to pink eggs. They are fertilized when she deposits them onto the male's tail.
The eggs attach to a region called the brood patch, which supplies eggs with oxygen until they hatch. As with seahorses, the male cares for the eggs until they hatch, which takes about 9 weeks. The male shakes and pumps his tail to aid hatching. Sea dragons become completely independent as soon as they hatch.
Leafy Sea Dragon | National Geographic
There is insufficient data to evaluate the conservation status of the ruby sea dragon. Some sea dragons get washed up by storms. While fishing bycatch and aquarium collection do affect the species, these effects are not believed to greatly impact the species. The most significant threats are from pollution, habitat degradation, and habitat loss. Like seahorses, sea dragons are difficult to keep in captivity.
While it's not illegal to own one, Australia prohibits their capture, only granting permits for research and conservation efforts. You can view these fascinating animals at most large aquariums and zoos. Researchers have successfully bred the common or weedy sea dragon. While Ocean Rider in Kona, Hawaii has gotten leafy sea dragons to mate and produce eggs, no leafy sea dragons have been born in captivity yet. Share Flipboard Email.
Aquarium offers look at rare sea dragons
Helmenstine holds a Ph. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. Updated October 08, Phylum Phyllopteryx. For days after birth, baby sea dragons are sustained by their yolk sacs. After this, they hunt small zooplankton , such as copepods and rotifers , until large enough to hunt juvenile mysids. Sea dragons grow to a length of 20 cm after one year, reaching their mature length at two years.
In the wild, young sea dragons are preyed upon by other fish, crustaceans and even sea anemones. Young sea dragons look more delicate, and are often differently colored than adults, and may hide in different types of seaweeds. The leafy sea dragon is a rare sight and a very fragile creature. Handling of any sort is discouraged due to the likelihood of injuring this animal. They do seem to enjoy having their picture taken though.
Description & Behavior
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