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The Magic of the Leafy Seadragon

Updated on April 25, 2012

Leafy Seadragon Relatives

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SeahorsesWeedy seadragonsPipefish
Weedy seadragons
Weedy seadragons

A few years back my boyfriend surprised me on my birthday with my first trip to the California Academy of Sciences. It was the first time that I ever saw a leafy seadragon and it immediately became my very favorite creature of the sea. I’ve since been back to that great California science museum many times and I’ve also been to see leafy seadragons at other California aquariums. Their magic never diminishes for me.

It’s a plant, it’s an animal …

The first thing that captured my interest about this strange creature is that it looks like a plant. Really. It’s got these leaf shaped limbs that float magically around it as it moves. It absolutely doesn’t look like a real thing. It looks like a fantasy creature created for a kids’ movie. It looks like something drawn into the illustration of a wonderful book. It absolutely doesn’t look like an animal … it looks like a really cool plant that doesn’t have to be attached to anything and just moves around on its own.

Then you see that it’s an animal and there’s this whole new level of magic when you realize that it’s such a stunning example of camouflage. The leaves of the animal blend with the plant life in the water around it. I’m always impressed by animals that can camouflage themselves in any way and this is no exception. I’m a three year old when it comes to how much the magic of this amazes me.

Little propellers

When you get a chance to look up close at a leafy seadragon you can see that it moves in the same fascinating way that the sea horse moves, which makes sense since they’re from the same family of creatures. If you’ve never had a chance to look up close at a sea horse you should find a way to do so because it’s really cool the way that they bob vertically up and down thanks to these strange little propeller fins that they have on their backs. The leafy sea dragon has those same fins, one on the neck and one on the back. They’re these tiny little things that move super rapidly and allow the animal to move. It doesn’t look like it should be possible and that is what makes it so magical to watch.

Some fascinating facts

I decided to do some brief research into the leafy sea dragon using the wonders of the web and here are some of the things that I learned:

- This animal is only found off of the coasts of Australia. This gives me yet another reason to want to visit Australia! In fact, the leafy sea dragon is important to South Australia and is a focus of marine life conservation there. The locals call them “leafies”. They even have a Leafy Sea Dragon Festival there.

- The leafy sea dragon is actually also able to change color to further camouflage itself. I didn’t know this (since I’ve only ever seen them in the same small tanks in aquariums where they wouldn’t need to do that) and it just adds to my fascination with them.

- The leafy seadragon has three cool family members. First, there’s the seahorse which most people are familiar with. Then there’s the weedy sea dragon, which looks a lot like the leafy seadragon but is smaller and has slightly different “leaves”. (I’m pretty sure I saw weedy seadragons at the aquarium in Monterey.) And then there’s the pipefish, a weird long skinny fish with a super long snout. The leafy seadragon has that same snout. It’s another aspect of the animal that just doesn’t seem similar to other creatures and that makes it seem so interesting.

- The males take care of the eggs. This is something that’s true of seahorses as well and it’s always an interesting thing when species do this since it’s so rare.

The leafy seadragon gets its name from two things – the fact that it’s leafy and the fact that it looks like a dragon. It’s the combination of these two things that make it seem like a completely fictional creature and I love the fact that it’s not.


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  • Ingenira profile image

    Ingenira 5 years ago


  • profile image

    Ausseye 5 years ago

    Hi Kay: A truly inspiring account of meeting a creature of exotic qualities, too bad it comes from Australia. We’re letting the Koala die, some conservation. By all accounts we let the devil die, that’s the Tasmanian Devil and other indigenous life forms. Love your interest and intensity. Mind you, there might have been a message you missed, maybe the boyfriend was saying I’ll take care of the offspring. I remember the saying “ give peace a chance” maybe “ give sea life a chance” might be a good lifetime song. Mind you an American President went west, cause he thought the Buffalo would become extinct just so he could shoot one……thats putting conservation into a new frame….he stuffed it ….in more than one way. Your hub made me tinker….food for thought ….maybe sea the future!!!

  • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

    Pamela Kinnaird W 5 years ago from Maui and Arizona

    What a lovely hub. I'd never heard of this creature. Seahorses, yes, but not seadragons. Thanks for doing the research and sharing it with us.

  • aa lite profile image

    aa lite 5 years ago from London

    Great hub! I've always wondered what those creatures were, ever since I saw one in a public aquarium, I've even got a couple of pictures of it, but never knew what it was called. And for extra pleasure you got an Attenborough movie in there!

  • Trish_M profile image

    Tricia Mason 5 years ago from The English Midlands

    Hi :)

    Coincidentally, I saw a TV documentary, featuring one of these, just the other day, and I was totally captivated!

    I agree with you ~ they are, indeed, quite magical.

    Great hub!

  • Ruchira profile image

    Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

    yup, I admire these creatures as well. Thanks to my 8 year old who loves nature and their creatures that this leafy seadragon came to light in our topic of discussion.

    voted up as interesting!

  • rsusan profile image

    Rika Susan 5 years ago from South Africa

    What a magical creature the leafy seadragon is, Kathryn! Thanks for introducing them here. I read this with a sense of wonderment. What a world our Creator gave us to enjoy - and how sad that we as humans are not more aware of what a precious gift we have to protect and treasure.

  • sgbrown profile image

    Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

    Wonderful hub! These are such interesting and beautiful creatures. I love to watch them swim. Voted up and interesting! Have a wonderful day! :)

  • JKenny profile image

    James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

    Fantastic Hub, its hard to believe that the leafy seadragon is actually a fish, let alone an animal. The same goes for the seahorse, you couldn't get two weirder looking fish if you tried. Great stuff! Voted up etc.

  • American_Choices profile image

    American_Choices 5 years ago from USA


    The ocean, the coral reefs are critical to our existence. The lack of knowledge and understanding of the importance must be corrected. Learning what exists and how precious it is and how rare - one place in the world - yes, it gives us another reason to visit Australia but it should make us stop and protect the natural resources we have.

    I have been to Australia and the gold coast and New Zealand, I wish more Americans had the means to visit, I truly believe it would change their persepective.

    Wonderful! Voted up and beautiful! I hope to see more beauties from the deep.

  • unknown spy profile image

    IAmForbidden 5 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

    Wow! Its awesome! so beautiful sea creatures..i really love to watch seahorses..but seadragons are more fascinating to watch!!! havent seen this before, thanks for sharing :)