Animal of the Month: July

Seadragons are champions of camouflage and some of the most ornately camouflaged animals on the planet.  Pictured above is a weedy seadragon, from Dallas World Aquarium.

There are three species of seadragon: leafy, weedy and ribbon.  The leafy and weedy seadragons are endemic to the waters off south and east Australia.  Leafies are generally brown to yellow in body color with spectacular olive-tinted appendages. Weedies have less flamboyant projections and are usually reddish in color with yellow spots.  Ribboned seadragons are more tropical and found around Irian Jaya and the coast of northern Australia from Shark Bay in Western Australia to the Torres Strait.

Ribboned seadragons, Haliichthys taeniophorus, were thought of as pipefish until recently.  Some aquariums in Australia still display them as “Ribboned Pipefish.”  It it is now believed these are more closely related to the other two seadragon species than pipefish, though there is some controversy.  Strong similarities to the ribboned seadragon can be seen in prehistoric depictions of the Rainbow Serpent, an ancestral being of Australian Aboriginal people.   Aboriginal people depicted the Rainbow Serpent over thousands of years.  The first depictions of the the Rainbow Serpent can be traced back in rock art at least 6000 years. All Rainbow Serpent stories share a common thread; the fundamental role of water in nature’s cycle of growth and regeneration.  Learn more.

Seadragons have very long, thin snouts; slender trunks covered in bony rings; and thin tails which, unlike their seahorse cousins, cannot be used for gripping.  As with seahorses, seadragon males are responsible for childbearing.  Instead of a pouch, like sea horses have, male seadragons have a spongy brood patch on the underside of the tail where females deposit their bright-pink eggs during mating. The eggs are fertilized during the transfer from the female to the male. The males incubate the eggs and carry them to term, releasing miniature sea dragons into the water after about four to six weeks.

Ribboned Seadragon (or Pipefish)

Leafy Seadragon

Photos copyright Amanda Galiano.

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