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All Creatures,

Episode 50: In the Sea, there be Dragons

August 07, 2018

The Seadragon is related to the Seahorse and Pipefish. They belong to the family Syngnathidae. There are over 215 species in this family to include: 3 Seadragons, 47 Seahorse, and 165 Pipefish. Seadragons are some of the most elaborate, exotic, gorgeous animals on Earth.

Seadragon Description

There are 3 species of Seadragon:

All three species are found in the Indian Ocean and Tasman Sea around southern Australia. They are listed as ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN, due to the many protections given to these creatures by the government of Australia. The Ruby Seadragon was just discovered in 2015.

Seadragons can trace their history back at least 25 million years. It is believed a great uplifting of the oceans between Australia and New Guinea led to shallower seas. This in turn allowed sea grasses to grow and proliferate. This is where Seadragons and Seahorses are thought to have originated from pipefish.

Seadragon Facts

One of the most fascinating facts about Seadragons, Seahorses, and Pipefish is their mating behavior. The male is actually “pregnant” and carries the eggs to term. Females of these species have a specialized organ called ‘ovipositor’ into the males ‘brood pouch’ (for Seahorses, in Seadragons she puts them on, or near, his tail. The male then fertilizes the eggs and then cares for them. It is one of the rarest breeding strategies of any animal on the planet.

Other facts include:

  • Live around 5-15 meters deep (16-50 feet)
  • Like water temps around 14 to 19 C (58 to 66 F)
  • Eyes can move independently of each other
  • Female territories around 100 square meters (328 sq ft); males around 50 square meters
  • A group of Seahorses called a ‘herd’
  • No real predators, except for young
  • Have no teeth, but use snout to vacuum up small invertebrates
  • Have skeletal like plating that provides armor against any predator
  • Elaborate leafy-appendages used for camouflage

Seadragon Conservation

While the Seadragon is not in immediate danger, it is important to realize our oceans are in danger. Plastics, other pollutants, overfishing, climate change and many others are causing a drastic decline in ocean health. We need to keep working hard to preserve these and our other ocean-going friends.  Many Seahorse species are critically-endangered, for example the Greek Ninespine Stickleback.

Organizations to Support

Project Seahorse

S.E.A. Aquarium

Videos

Divers find a Seadragon

Weedy Seadragon gives birth

Leafy Seadragons in the wild

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