The leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques) or Glauert’s seadragon, is a marine fish within the family Syngnathidae, which incorporates seadragons, pipefish, and seahorses. It is the one member of the genus Phycodurus.
Leafy Seadragon Profile
Not to be confused with the weedy seadragon, its comparatively clean-cut cousin, the leafy seadragon—“leafie” to its countrymen—is roofed from head to tail with skin filaments that appear to be leaves, permitting it to mix into the kelp beds it calls dwelling.
The leafy seadragon may also change color relying on how deep down it goes; it’s even been recognized to remain nonetheless for practically three days at a time, simply drifting together with the present.
It is discovered alongside the southern and western coasts of Australia. The name is derived from the looks, with long leaf-like protrusions coming from everywhere in the body. These protrusions should not be used for propulsion; they serve solely as camouflage.
The leafy seadragon propels itself by the use of a pectoral fin on the ridge of its neck and a dorsal fin on its back nearer to the tail end.
These small fins are nearly fully transparent and troublesome to see as they undulate minutely to maneuver the creature sedately via the water, finishing the phantasm of floating seaweed.
Popularly referred to as “leafies”, it’s the marine emblem of the state of South Australia and a spotlight for native marine conservation.
Seadragons attain sexual maturity at around 28 months, and congregate every winter to search out mates; the remainder of the time, they lead a mainly solitary life among the many weeds, dwelling for wherever between 5 and ten years.
Unfortunately, largely due to human effect (together with trade-in seadragons as souvenirs and different medicine elements), populations are diminishing, calling for government-supported conservation measures.
Though the fuss does deliver a sure superstar: the leafy seadragon is the official state fish of South Australia.
The leafy seadragon makes use of the fins alongside the aspect of its head to permit it to steer and switch. However, its outer skin is pretty inflexible, limiting mobility.
Individual leafy seadragons have been noticed remaining in a single location for prolonged durations of time (as much as 68 hours), however will typically transfer for prolonged durations. The monitoring of 1 particular person indicated it moved at as much as 150 m (490 ft) per hour.
Leafy Seadragon Description
Much just like the seahorse, the leafy seadragon’s name is derived from its resemblance to a different creature (on this case, the legendary dragon).
While not giant, they’re barely bigger than most seahorses, rising to about 20–24 cm (8–9.5 in). They feed on plankton and small crustaceans.
The lobes of skin that develop on the leafy seadragon present camouflage, giving it the looks of seaweed. It is ready to keep the phantasm when swimming, showing to maneuver via the water like a chunk of floating seaweed.
It may also change color to mix in, however, this capacity depends upon the seadragon’s diet, age, location, and stress level.
The leafy seadragon is said to the pipefish and belongs to the family Syngnathidae, together with the seahorse. It differs from the seahorse in look, a type of locomotion, and its lack of ability to coil or grasp issues with its tail.
An associated species is a weedy seadragon, which is multicolored and grows weed-like fins however is smaller than the leafy seadragon.
Another distinctive characteristic is the small, round gill openings protecting tufted gills, very in contrast to the crescent-shaped gill openings and ridged gills of most fish species.
Leafy Seadragon Distribution
The leafy seadragon is discovered solely in southern Australian waters, from Wilson’s Promontory in Victoria on the eastern end of its range, westward to Jurien Bay, 220 km (140 mi) north of Perth in Western Australia.
Individuals have been as soon as thought to have very restricted ranges; however additional analysis has found that seadragons really travel a number of hundred meters from their recurring places, returning to the same spot utilizing a powerful sense of route.
They are largely discovered over sand patches in waters as much as 50 m (160 ft) deep, round kelp-covered rocks, and clumps of seagrass. They are generally sighted by scuba divers close to Adelaide in South Australia, particularly at Rapid Bay, Edithburgh, and Victor Harbor.
When not practicing its guru-like mastery of stillness, the leafy seadragon strikes utilizing transparent fins on its neck and close to its tail. It makes use of the more seen fins on its head for steering and turning, and its leaflike filaments for stability and buoyancy.
With no precise tail fin, the seadragon is a gradual mover—it’s been clocked at as much as 490 feet per hour—however even when removed from dwelling, a surprisingly sturdy sense of route helps it discover its means back.
Leafy Seadragon Habitat and way of life
Leafy seadragons are mostly discovered amongst patches of kelp and seaweed, often in sandy areas and at depths of lower than 30m, dwelling a primarily solitary existence with a life cycle of between 5 to seven years.
It was thought that leafies stayed in a selected habitat all through their lifespans, however, the latest analysis has proven that sometimes they may migrate as much as a number of hundred meters away from their major places. They appear to have an eager sense of route and are capable of navigating back to their major spots once more.
Their kelp and seaweed habitats present ample provides of small crustaceans similar to sea lice, plankton, and larval fish, which they suck up via their long, pipe-like snouts. Leafy seadragons don’t seem to have any particular predators—which is maybe the final word praise to their superb camouflage.
Like all bony fish, the leafy seadragon makes use of its swim bladder to take care of its place within the water column. It has two small fins: one on its back near the tail, which supplies ahead motion; and a second on the ridge of its neck, which permits it to steer and switch its body to alter the route.
Although the unimaginable leaf-like appendages appear to be some type of fins, they really play no half in how Leafy Seadragon transfers via the water and are merely there for camouflage. The general impact is that leafy seadragons appear to drift majestically via the water.
Leafy seadragons often live a solitary way of life. When the time comes, males courtroom the females, they then pair as much as a breed. From the moment they hatch, leafy seadragons are fully unbiased. By the age of two, they’re sometimes full-grown and able to breed.
The species feeds by sucking up small crustaceans, similar to amphipods and mysid shrimp, plankton, and larval fish via its long, pipe-like snout.
The leafy seadragon’s next-level powers of camouflage enable it to go undetected by each predator (bigger fish, largely) and its prey, which incorporates plankton, larval fish, and numerous tiny crustaceans.
Leafy Seadragon feeds on these unsuspecting micro-creatures by sucking up hundreds of them every day via its long, tubular snout. With no teeth and no abdomen, it must make up in amount what it can’t deal with in size or selection.
Leafy seadragon etiquette
Leafy Seadragon is a very delicate creature, that are very territorial and simply careworn. So, great care is required when interacting with them, notably if the males are carrying eggs.
Under no circumstances ought to they be moved up and down within the water column, as a result of their swim bladders are simply broken by sudden modifications in stress.
Similarly, Leafy Seadragon would not have any eyelids and are believed to be fairly delicate to vivid light. Therefore, they shouldn’t be uncovered to video lights over an extended interval or extreme use of strobes.
Overall, the leafy seadragon is a powerful instance of Australian marine biodiversity, and encounters with them are really memorable. However, they should be revered and handled with great care.
Threats to survival
There are two principal threats to the survival of leafy seadragons: unhealthy climate and rogue divers poaching them for the aquarium commerce and personal collectors.
Unlike their cousins the seahorse, Leafy Seadragon doesn’t have any tail, and due to this fact, no technique to connect themselves to the kelp and seaweed of their habitats. So, harsh climate situations and the inevitable huge waves, can sweep them from their secure havens and wash them up on the shore.
While storms and large seas are a part of nature, and as such, factored into the general ebb and move of the leafy seadragon reproductive cycle, international warming-induced modifications to Australian climate patterns are impacting these delicate creatures.
However, the larger risk is the insidious apply of poaching Leafy Seadragon for the aquarium commerce. Their very good presence within the water makes them so extremely prized, they’re believed to fetch costs of as much as AU$15,000.
Leafy Seadragon Reproduction
As with seahorses, the male leafy seadragon cares for the eggs. The feminine produces as many as 250 vivid pink eggs, then deposits them onto the male’s tail together with her ovipositor, a long tube.
The eggs then connect themselves to a brood patch, which provides them with oxygen. After 9 weeks, the eggs start to hatch, relying on water situations.
The eggs flip a ripe purple or orange over this era, after which the male pumps his tail till the younger emerge, a process which takes place over 24–48 hours.
The male aids the hatching of the eggs by shaking his tail and rubbing it towards seaweed and rocks. Once born, the younger seadragon is totally unbiased, consuming small zooplankton till giant sufficient to hunt mysids.
Only about 5% of the eggs survive. Once the eggs have hatched, every individual leafy seadragon has a small yolk sack externally hooked up to them.
This sac supplies them meals for the next few days. Once the eggs have hatched, the newborns can go off and hunt instantly afterward. This sac is sort of a security net for leafy seadragons for the next few days.
Leafy Seadragon Gestation
Like seahorses, leafy seadragon dads bear a lot of parenting obligations. However, whereas seahorse fathers carry fertilized eggs in a pouch on their bellies, male seadragons use an uncovered spongy patch under their tails, incubating as much as 300 eggs at a time.
After 9 weeks, dad pumps and shakes his tail to hatch his offspring; the supply can take as much as two days. Only about 5 % of the eggs survive, however people who do are unbiased as quickly as they’re born.
Leafy Seadragon In captivity
Due to being protected by legislation, acquiring seadragons is usually an expensive and troublesome process as they should be from captive-bred inventory, and exporters should show their broodstock was caught before gathering restrictions went into impact, or that that they had a license to gather seadragons.
Seadragons have a selected level of safety below federal fisheries laws in addition to in most Australian states the place they happen. Seadragons are troublesome to take care of in aquaria.
Success in retaining them has been largely confined to the general public aquarium sector, because of funding and data that might not be out there to the average fanatic.
Attempts to breed the leafy seadragon in captivity have up to now been unsuccessful. Aside from the legalities, leafy seadragons value between $10,000 and $15,000 a chunk, prohibitive to most collectors.
Where to see leafy seadragons
The jetties and bays of South Australia, plus the state’s very scenic Kangaroo Island, are the very best locations to see Leafy Seadragon —with Rapid Bay, Victor Harbour, and Edithburg most likely the very best places.
Both Rapid Bay and Victor Harbour are about 85km south of the state capital Adelaide and are very popular dive sites, whereas Edithburg is on the southeast nook of the Yorke Peninsula and about 50km west of Adelaide, throughout the Gulf St Vincent, however some 225km away by street.
All three are shore dives with easy accessibility in a good climate. I’ve personally had essentially the most success at Edithburg; though, I need to say, that I used to be guided and doubt I’d have been capable of finding them by myself.
How to see leafy seadragons
Because the leafy seadragon’s camouflage is so efficient, it’s surprisingly troublesome to spot, even when it’s in front of you. So, until you may have limitless time, patience, and a humorousness, you’ll most likely be greatest served by utilizing a guide.
Several years ago, the alternatives for guides have been fairly restricted, however, today, a fast check with Google exhibits that plenty of dive outlets and numerous people supply “leafy seadragon tours”.
I had the assistance of a guide, Carey Harmer of Leafy Seadragon Tours, and was more than happy with my journey. It is cash properly spent, actually, if one thinks about the price of getting all the way down to South Australia, automobile rent, and lodging.
Range and Conservation Status
Due to habitat destruction, air pollution, and poaching, seadragon numbers are declining within the wild; the species was listed as Near-Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List in 2006.
It is totally protected below Australian legislation; since 1987, the federal government has allowed one pregnant male to be collected every year, and for his hatchlings to be exported for education and analysis.
Leafy seadragons are subject to many threats, each natural and man-made. They are caught by collectors and utilized in different drugs. They are susceptible when firstborn, and are gradual swimmers, decreasing their likelihood of escaping from a predator.
Seadragons are sometimes washed ashore after storms, as in contrast to their relative the seahorse, seadragons can not curl their tails and maintain them onto seagrasses to remain secure.
The species has to turn endangered via air pollution and industrial runoff, in addition to a set for the aquarium commerce. In response to those risks, the species has been completely protected in South Australia since 1987, Victoria since a minimum of 1995, and Western Australia since 1991.
Additionally, the species’ itemizing within the Australian government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 signifies that the welfare of the species needs to be thought of as part of any developmental mission.
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