The sea dragon is aptly named because they do look like the imaginary dragons we conjure up in our minds. While it looks like a dragon, it is much smaller and may only grow as big as 18 inches in length. Nevertheless, the sea dragon is amazing in its appearance and very vulnerable when outside of its native environment.
Sea Dragon Relatives
Sea dragons, including the leafy and weedy sea dragons, are related to the sea horse. They are in the same family, the Sygnathidae, however they are different in appearance. They have similar bodies, however the sea dragon has either leaf or weed like appendages that cover their bodies. Their tails are different, too, and cannot be used to grip anything.
Sea Dragon Distribution
The sea dragon is found mostly in the waters of South Australia within the sea grass, kelp, and seaweed. With pollution and habitat loss, not to mention poaching, the sea dragon is threatened. They do not survive well in captivity, which makes it difficult to protect them and help them reproduce. It is quite sad that while the sea dragon does not have any known marine predators that humans are taking them from their habitat and quickly depleting their numbers. Because f this, the Department of Fisheries named the sea dragon a protected species in 1991 and this has helped the species rebound somewhat.
Sea Dragon Hiding for Defense
Since the sea dragon only has tiny fins, it is virtually impossible for it to escape from human predators out to catch it. However, hiding in the sea bed is quite easy for these creatures. While in their natural habitat, they hunt down sea lice, which are miniscule shrimp, their main food source.
Sea Dragon Reproduction
The leafy and weedy sea dragons are not only visually amazing, but they mate in an amazing way, too. The female sea dragon deposits hot pink colored eggs, up to 250 of them, on the mail sea dragon's brood patch. This is located on the bottom of the mail sea dragon's tail. The eggs attach here and then the male fertilizes them. The brood patch has tiny cups and each cups holds an egg. Here, the eggs receive oxygen from the male's blood vessels. Breeding season is from August until March and usually two batches of eggs are hatched during this time.
Sea Dragon Life Cycle
Once the baby sea dragon is born, about four to six weeks after fertilization, the baby sea dragon is born and is immediately independent of its parents. The sea dragon parents do not help their "children" once they are born. When the baby sea dragons are born they still have a yolk sac. This supports them for a couple days after birth. After this period of time, though, the baby sea dragons are on their own and begin hunting zooplankton for sustenance until they are large enough to hunt for sea lice.
Of the two sea dragons, the weedy sea dragon is more common and is actually called the common sea dragon. The leafy sea dragon is more rare.