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Leafy Sea Dragon (Phycodurus eques)

Updated on June 1, 2014

Leafy Sea Dragon

Known scientifically as the Phycodurus eques this colorful relative of the Sea Horse lives in the Southern waters off the coast of Australia.
Known scientifically as the Phycodurus eques this colorful relative of the Sea Horse lives in the Southern waters off the coast of Australia. | Source

Leafy Sea Dragon

An up close and personal portrait of a very beautiful critter.
An up close and personal portrait of a very beautiful critter. | Source

Leafy Sea Dragon

The Leafy Sea Dragon (Phycodurus eques) is a fish that is known for its colorful camouflage and weedy-like appendages. This close relative of the Sea Horse, The Leafy Sea Dragon uses its weedy appendages to blend in with the seaweed that it lives in to fool predators.

It has tiny see-through pectoral fins and a dorsal fin that it uses to swim with and a leafy tail. It resembles the mythical dragon yet only grows from ten to twelve inches long. The Leafy Sea Dragon's appendages can change color to help camouflage it as it drifts lazily along with the ocean currents.

It is related to the pipe-fish and uses it long snout to suck-up plankton and small crustaceans that are part of its diet. Its range is in the Southern Seas off the coast of Australia and it also eats small shrimp known as mysids and amphipods.

The male of the species care for the eggs for nine weeks until they hatch which are squirted onto its tail by the female. They turn a bright purple before hatching and are helped in the hatching process by the male as it shakes its tail and rubs it against rocks, coral and seaweed in the surrounding water. This process can take up to 48 hours to occur and has never been duplicated in captivity.

They are extremely slow swimmers and are on the endangered species list as they are routinely captured by divers for private aquariums. The Leafy Sea Dragon is the official marine emblem of the State of South Australia.

The Southern Waters of Australia

Body Defenses

The Leafy Sea Dragon is equipped with long sharp spines that blend in as a part of their leafy appendages. These spines attach to the ends of their plate rings that cover their entire body, basically enclosing them in a protective spiny defense top and bottom. Their body's consist of many armored plates and ribbing for even more protection.

The Leafy Sea Dragon is the only animal that actually uses movement as a way of concealment. They do this by slowly 'drifting' along with the seaweed beds that they prefer to live in. Their leafy appendages also will change color depending on their surroundings to further confuse their enemies.

Their eyes move independently of each other allowing them to see in many directions at once which is another of their defensive tools they use to move slowly about their marine environment.

Divers have noted that a Leafy Sea Dragon will curl up in a ball when threatened exposing its many spines to its attacker. Because the Leafy Sea Dragon is relatively flat with a series of bony cartilage and appendages it does not make for a fat meal and many predators avoid them. Although this has not been observed in the wild many researchers believe that skates and sharks are their main enemies in the wild.

Of course man is their primary enemy as they are coveted for salt-water aquariums world wide and because of that have been put on a protection list with strong laws against their capture.

Leafy Sea Dragon

They come in a variety of colors and can change like the chameleon to adapt to their environment.
They come in a variety of colors and can change like the chameleon to adapt to their environment. | Source

A Weedy Sea Dragon

The sleeker version of the Leafy Sea Dragon is the Weedy Sea Dragon.
The sleeker version of the Leafy Sea Dragon is the Weedy Sea Dragon. | Source

Weedy Sea Dragon

The Weedy Sea Dragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) is a close relative of the Leafy Sea Dragon. The Weedy Sea Dragon is a more streamlined version and close relative of both the Sea Horse and Leafy Sea Dragon.

Not much is known about this species, although they are much bigger than their close relative the Leafy Sea Dragon and can grow to be 18 inches to 2 feet in length. These marine animals are more streamlined and have less leafy appendages than their close relative the Leafy Sea Dragon but is not considered a new species.

They both inhabit the Southern waters of Australia and are considered endangered. Weedy Sea Dragons are more often a reddish to blueish/purple in color with orange to yellow dots.

Leafy Sea Dragon

Habitat and Breeding

The Leafy prefers to live in 5 to 35 feet of water in kelp beds and marshy seaweed infested areas and avoids open water where their colorful appendages would make them stick out like a sore thumb. The fronds and kelp forests help to reduce strong currents and allow them to float slowly through their habitat in search of food.

The Leafy Sea Dragon only lives in the Southern waters of Australia from Perth in the West to Adelaide in the East.

The female of the species produce the eggs which are then inseminated when they are transferred to the male which then serves as a living hatchery during incubation. Much like the Sea Horse the male carries the eggs and has a series of tiny cup indentations along its tail designed to hold an individual egg until it hatches. It is believed that about 250 eggs can be carried at one time and that more than one female can use a male as a host.

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    • somethgblue profile imageAUTHOR

      somethgblue 

      6 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      Thanks Jen, I appreciate the comment and the visit

    • Jen Card profile image

      Jen Card 

      6 years ago

      That is so cool! Your art work is beautiful ! I loved this article and to watch the Leafy Sea Dragon swim so effortlessly was like watching a leaf floating amongst the tides. Great hub!

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 

      6 years ago from Northern Ireland

      somethgblue:

      Sounds like a quote from a science fantasy book (as yet unwritten) about as alternative earth :)

    • somethgblue profile imageAUTHOR

      somethgblue 

      6 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      DreamerMeg,

      Yeah in the Southern Waters of the Sahara the Leafy Sea Dragons can be found mostly under the bridge that crosses this vast expanse.

      thanks Beata!

    • Beata Stasak profile image

      Beata Stasak 

      6 years ago from Western Australia

      Nature suprises us more than we ever could imagine, thank you for letting me know about this beautiful hub:)

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 

      6 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Fantastic creatures. Loved your quiz "alternative answer" of the Southern waters of the Sahara!

    • sparkster profile image

      Marc Hubs 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Nice, I like it!

    • Insane Mundane profile image

      Insane Mundane 

      6 years ago from Earth

      Oh hell yeah, it looked great... I used to be big into art, mostly paint, charcoal, and your basic lead, but I've never did the digital art thingy.

      I just checked on that Corel Painter stuff, and it looks like a great tool.

      Yeah, it is good to take a break from those types of subjects. Today, for example, I wrote 2 web pages on my main site... One was about Reptilian Aliens and the other was an erotic image gallery featuring a former WWE Diva; ha!

    • somethgblue profile imageAUTHOR

      somethgblue 

      6 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      Yes indeed, did you like the illustration I did of it?

      I did it completely on the computer using Corel Painter 11, first I sketched it out, then I colored it in using a wide variety of brushes.

      Sometimes writing about unusual critters or various exotic places in the world is a good break from enlightening the sheep on the impending doom of their pathetic mortal existence, such as it is.

    • Insane Mundane profile image

      Insane Mundane 

      6 years ago from Earth

      Wow! ...Such beautiful creatures!

      The Leafy Sea Dragon is like an animated aquatic chameleon...

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