By Blane Perun
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The weedy sea dragon is a close relative of the seahorse. It looks similar to the seahorse, except it has long weed-like structures that stick out from their bodies. This is very helpful for disguising the weedy sea dragon and it is really difficult to distinguish them in the seaweed beds where they mostly live.
The weedy sea dragon is sometimes called the common sea dragon and it is actually considered a fish. The weedy sea dragon belongs to the Phyllopteryx genus and is the only member. The weedy sea dragon is found mostly along Australia's southern coast. Places like Western Australian, New South Wales, Port Stephens, and even Tasmania are home to the weedy sea dragon.
After mating, the female weedy sea dragon goes on her merry way while the male carries the eggs. There are only two other species, the pipe fish and sea horse, where the male carries the egg after mating. The fertilized eggs travel safely on the weedy sea dragon's tail. Not many aquariums have weedy sea dragons because they do not survive well in captivity. In fact, only slightly more than half do survive and it is still not sure how the weedy sea dragon actually mates. When mating occurs, the female takes her bright pink eggs and deposits them on the male's brood patch at the bottom, underside of his tail. When the female deposits the eggs the male then fertilizes them. After about four to six weeks of gestation, the baby sea dragons are released into the water.
The weedy sea dragon may grow to be as big as 45 cm long,
which is about 18 inches. They use their tube shaped snout
to such up zooplankton and any other tiny crustaceans they
can find including sea lice also called mysids.
Another relative of the weedy sea dragon is the leafy sea dragon. They look similar, but the leafy sea dragon has more leaf shaped appendages than weed like. The DNA has been studied to help determine their closeness.
Of all the planet's creatures and their respective camouflage, the sea dragons are actually some of the best camouflaged of all. They really fit in perfectly with the seaweed and kelp of their habitat and it is very difficult to tell them apart from their environment.
These leafy sea dragons are usually brown or reddish with their "weeds" being greener. They also have yellow spots. Sea dragons have long, slender bodies that are covered in rings of bone. Their tails are very thin and are not useful for gripping like the sea horse's. Their fins are clear, but help them navigate the ocean's waters albeit awkwardly. The drift along quite like actual seaweed and perhaps this as well helps in their camouflage.
It is interesting that the weedy sea dragon is so well camouflaged because scientists are still unsure if these animals actually have predators or not. The only real predators known are human divers who are so captivated by these amazing creatures that they capture them and hope to care for them in an aquarium. Habitat loss and pollution also threaten these amazing sea creatures and they are currently considered threatened.