Leafy Sea Dragon
Known as the Phycodurus eques, the Leafy Sea Dragon belongs to the Phycodurus genus. It is the only member of this particular genus. The Leafy Sea Dragon lives in Australia, generally in the western and southern parts of the country. The Leafy Sea Dragon prefers waters that are shallow and warm.
The Leafy Sea Dragon is named such because it looks quite leafy. In fact, the Leafy Sea Dragon has its entire body covered in what looks like little leaves. These leaf like appendages help the leafy sea dragon camouflage itself from predators. Some people think that the leafy sea dragon uses these leaves to help it get around because they look sort of like fins in the water.
The leafy sea dragon does have fins, but they are super tiny and barely visible along the pectoral and dorsal fins. Since it is so hard to see these fins it appears as if the leafy sea dragon just floats through the water.
The Leafy Sea Dragon is named after the mythical sea monster "Cler." Of course, this animal is not exactly large, but when compared to other sea horses it really is pretty big because it can grow to up to 18 inches. Leafy sea dragons eat small crustaceans as well as plankton. When reproduction time comes the female actually places her eggs on the male's tail and it is here that the eggs mature. Sea horses also reproduce this way.
The eggs are a very bright color of pink. She deposits them with a long tube right onto the brood patch on the male's tail. The brood patch supplies oxygen to the eggs while they are maturing. Depending on the condition and temperature of the water, it takes roughly eight weeks for the eggs to hatch. During the maturation process the eggs change from pink to purple. When it is time for the eggs to hatch the male begins to pump his tail so that the little leafy sea dragons will emerge. This takes anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. Once the leafy sea dragon is born they do not depend on their parents in any way. Instead, they immediately become independent and consume zooplankton until they are larger and can eat other things.
Sadly, the leafy sea dragon is currently endangered thanks to divers who capture them and pollution. The Australian government has decided to protect the Leafy Sea Dragon to try and increase their numbers and protect their place in the wild. South Australia made the leafy sea dragon their marine emblem and the animal is so well known there is even a Leafy Sea Dragon Festival held biennially.