Leafy Seadragon

Leafy Seadragon
LEAFY SEADRAGON (Phycodurus eques)
Pronounced: (Fiy-co-doo-rus e-qee-es) Order: Gasterosteiformes
Kingdom: Animalia Family: Sygnathidae
Phylum: Chordata Genus: Phycodurus
Class: Actinopterygii Species: eques


Reaching a length of about 35 cm long, Leafy Seadragons use one of the best costumes in the animal world to stay hidden from predators. They grow seaweed-like appendages all over themselves to blend into their surroundings. From the sourthern coastline of Australia (from Kangaroo Island to Rottnest Island, these amazing fish float amongst the kelp beds below the low tide line, in water 3 – 50 m deep.

Leafy seadragons are omnivorous, eating both zooplankton and phytoplankton, as well as mysids and other small crustaceans. Their food is relatively abundant and doesn’t require difficult attack strategies, but leafy seadragons nonetheless have adaptations that help them optimize their feeding potential. This is necessary because they don’t have stomachs to hold and slowly digest food. Everything they take in is almost immediately used by their bodies, making it critical for them to continuously feed. Luckily, they can scout out meals with eyes that can look in two directions at once, so while the right eye looks one way, the left eye can rotate a completely different way, giving them better scoping ability. They also have a long, vacuum-like snout that is always ready to suck in a morsel as it floats past.

Although they use camouflage as their major defensive strategy, Leafy Seadragons have a backup tactic of presenting sharp spines and tough body armor to predators who take a nibble. Sometimes this is enough to discourage them, but not always. Fish, crustaceans, and even sea anemones are predators of Leafy Seadragons.

Female Leafy’s can lay up to 250 eggs onto a section of her mate called the brood patch, where he has developed a tiny cup to hold each egg. There, he will fertilize the eggs and carry them around until they hatch.

The IUCN lists Leafy Seadragons as Near Threatened, but the report states that there are signs that indicate this species is on its way to the Endangered category. They were last assessed in 2006, and since coastal development and water chemistry changes have increased since then, they may be more appropriately placed in a Conservation Dependent category.


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