Friday, May 14, 2010

Leafy Seadragon

The Leafy Sea Dragon (Phycodurus eques) is saltwater fish found off the coast of southern and western Australia. They are slightly smaller than the other species of sea dragon, the Weedy Sea Dragon, but are more  ornately decorated. Both species are able to camouflage themselves and hide among their surroundings, giving them few, if any, natural predators.They live off of a diet of small crustaceans, who they consume by sucking through their straw-like mouth. Unlike most crustacean predators, they have no teeth.

image from Dive Gallery
Leafy Sea Dragons swim very slow speeds because none of those leafy appendages are used for movement. Tiny little pectoral fins on the sides of their neck allow them to steer, while all propulsion comes from small dorsal fins that run down the spine. They also do not possess the ability to grasp with their tails, as sea horses can. This can result in them being washed adrift during rough waters. But like sea horses, Leafy Sea Dragon fathers play a huge role in the tending of their young. Females lay eggs on the males tail, where they remain until hatching about two months later.

Leafy Sea Dragons are the marine emblem of South Australia, and are protected there by law. Sea Dragons can be obtained as pets, but to do so legally can be a slow and expensive process, as the specimens must be captive bred. Collection of wild Leafy Sea Dragons for resale and for alternative medicines has been damaging to their wild numbers.

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