The common seadragon or weedy seadragon, scientific name Phyllopteryx taeniolatus is a marine fish associated with the seahorses.
Common seadragon Overview
Weedy sea dragons, also called common sea dragons, are endemic to the waters off of the southern coast of Australia.
Individuals of this species have been sighted off the eastern coast of Australia in New South Wales, as far north as Port Stephens; alongside the southern coast; and up across the western coast of Australia as far north as Geraldton, West Australia.
Phyllopteryx taeniolatus may be present in rocky reefs, seaweed beds, seagrass meadows, and kelp gardens. In all of those areas, their leafy appendages present safety by way of camouflage towards the seaweed.
While this may occasionally appear to be a broad range of habitats, sea dragons have very particular necessities. The water has to be between 12 and 23 degrees Celsius, and 10-50 meters deep, though they most frequently are discovered between 8 and 12 meters deep.
Adult common seadragons are a reddish color, with yellow and purple markings; they’ve small leaf-like appendages that resemble kelp fronds offering camouflage and various brief spines for cover.
Males have narrower bodies and are darker than females. Seadragons have a long dorsal fin alongside the back and small pectoral fins on both sides of the neck, which give stability. Common seadragons can attain 45 cm (18 in) in size.
The common seadragon is the marine emblem of the Australian state of Victoria.
The widespread seadragon is endemic to Australian waters of the Eastern Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean, and the South-Western Pacific Ocean. It may be discovered roughly between Port Stephens (New South Wales) and Geraldton, Western Australia, in addition to Tasmania.
The common seadragon inhabits coastal waters right down to at the least 50 m (160 ft) deep. It is related to rocky reefs, seaweed beds, seagrass meadows, and constructions colonized by seaweed.
Common seadragon Physical Description
A weedy sea dragon reaches 45cm in size and has a slim body with a long, tubular snout. It has two spines above its eye, one backbone in front of the attention, and a various variety of leafy appendages, both paired or single, alongside its body.
These purple appendages have a black border and supply the fish camouflage of their habitat as a result of they resemble floating seaweed. The bodies of those fish are often red with yellow spots and 7 purplish-blue stripes close to the top.
Weedy sea dragons are usually not sexually dimorphic and haven’t any subspecies, however do have an in-depth relative: Phycodurus eques, the leafy sea dragon.
The leafy sea dragon is discovered within the same geographic range and differs in look solely as a result of it has many more appendages.
Common seadragon Behavior
Common sea dragons are solitary animals that haven’t any identified predators. They are usually not sessile, however, they aren’t superb swimmers, both.
This is as a result of their bodies are surrounded by protecting dermal plates, which inhibit their mobility. Also, they lack a caudal fin and subsequently should depend on their ventral and dorsal fins for swimming. Because they’re poor swimmers, every year various people are discovered washed ashore on the seashores of southern Australia.
Common seadragon Biology
These fish are slow-moving and depend on their camouflage as safety towards predation; they drift within the water and with the leaf-like appendages resemble the swaying seaweed of their habitat. They lack a prehensile tail that allows comparable species to clasp and anchor themselves.
Individuals are noticed both on their very own or in pairs; feeding on tiny crustaceans and different zooplankton by sucking prey into their toothless mouths.
Like seahorses, seadragon males are the sex that cares for the growing eggs. Females lay around 120 eggs onto the brood patch situated on the underside of the males’ tail.
The eggs are fertilized and carried by the male for around a month before the hatchlings emerge. The younger are impartial at birth, starting to eat shortly after. Common seadragons take about 28 months to achieve sexual maturity and will live for as many as six years.
Common seadragon Reproduction
While it isn’t identified at what age sea dragons attain sexual maturity, their reproductive methods are properly documented. Like their relations with the ocean horses, the male sea dragons brood the eggs.
When a male is able to obtain the eggs, which he signifies by wrinkling the lower half of his tail, the feminine deposits about 250 ruby-colored eggs onto his brood patch.
The brood patch is made from tiny cups of blood-rich tissue, and every cup holds and nourishes one egg. After eight weeks, the eggs hatch over an interval of a few days.
After hatching, the younger sea dragons spend two or three days within the yolk sac of the egg, the place they proceed to be nourished.
After the younger go away from the yolk sac, they feed on copepods and rotifers, though solely 60-120 of them will survive, whereas the others fall prey to sea anemones.
The season of breeding in August via March and through this time the male’s brood two batches of eggs. The younger obtains no parental care after they hatch as a result of they’re launched into the exterior environment.
Mating in captivity is comparatively uncommon since researchers have but to know what biological or environmental components set off them to breed. The survival rate for younger common seadragons is low within the wild, however, it’s about 60% in captivity.
Common seadragon In Captivity
The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California and the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, Tennessee within the US, and the Melbourne Aquarium in Melbourne, Australia are among the many few amenities on the planet to have efficiently bred common seadragons in captivity, although others sometimes report egg-laying.
In March 2012 the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, USA, introduced a profitable breeding occasion of common seadragons. As of July 2012, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has additionally efficiently bred and hatched out child common seadragons on exhibit.
Common seadragon Threats
The common seadragon is assessed as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List 2017. While the common seadragon is a desired species within the worldwide aquarium commerce, the amount of wild-caught people is small and subsequently not at the moment a serious risk. Instead, habitat loss and degradation as a result of human activities and air pollution threaten common seadragons most.
The lack of appropriate seagrass beds and lack of cover seaweed from inshore rock reefs, coupled with natural history traits that make them poor dispersers, however the way forward for seadragon populations in danger.
This species just isn’t at present a sufferer of bycatch or a goal of commerce in conventional Chinese medication, two activities that are at the moment risk to many associated seahorse and pipefish populations.
Weedy sea dragons haven’t any teeth however as a substitute, feed by the use of suction. Their pipe-like terminal mouth has an intricate system of bones pulled by muscle tissues to create a powerful suction drive that’s directed at meals. Their prey consists of mysid shrimp, sea lice, and larval fish.
Common seadragon Conservation
It is against the law to take or export these species in a lot of the states inside which they happen. A database of seadragon sightings, generally known as ‘Dragon Search’ has been established with an assist from the Marine Life Society of South Australia Inc., (‘Dragon Search’ arose because of the logical development of an identical mission initiated by the MLSSA, which was the first community group or certainly organization of any kind to undertake the common seadragon’s shut relative, the leafy seadragon, as a part of its logo), the Marine and Coastal Community Network (MCCN), the Threatened Species Network (TSN) and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), which inspires divers to report sightings.
Monitoring of populations could present indications of native water quality and seadragons might additionally develop into a necessary ‘flagship’ species for the often-overlooked richness of the distinctive natural world of Australia’s south coast.
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