Leafy Sea Dragon
leafy-sea-dragon2.jpg

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: ChordataClass: ActinopterygiiOrder: SyngnathiformesFamily: SyngnathidaeSubfamily: SyngnathinaeGenus: PhycodurusSpecies: P. eques


Characteristics
The leafy sea dragon is generally brown and yellow with olive appendages. They usually fall within a range of 20-34 centimeters. They have a long pipe-like snout which helps them to catch food. The leafy sea dragon is covered with jointed, armour-like plates instead of scales. They also have shart spines on their bodies to protect them from predators(6). Their eyes are independent of one another. This helps not only to protect them from predators but also to find prey. They use small translucent fins to swim. They have fins along the sides of their heads as well as dorsal fins along their spines. They are not very weak
sea_horse.jpg
This is a picture of a sea dragon.
swimmers. They look more like seaweed drifting in the ocean than they do fish(3).




Sea Dragon vs. Sea Horse
—Both the leafy sea dragon and the sea horse are from Syngnathidae family. One main difference between the two is that the sea horse can use its tail to grab things while the sea dragon cannot(2). The ability to grab with its tail helps the sea dragon to protect itself from strong currents which the sea dragon cannot do. Also the sea dragon is typically larger than the sea horse. Lastly another main different is the way in which the animals reproduce. The sea horse has a pouch to carry eggs. The leafy sea dragon does not have a pouch to carry eggs.

Habitat—The leafy sea dragon is found only in Australia. It is found on the southern coast, in temperate waters. The temperature ranges from aroun 14-19*C. They usually live in water that is from 5-35 meters with most
MAP.gif
This is a map of where the sea dragons are located. The light brown is where they live.
staying in the shallower water from 5-15 meters deep. On the southern coast the sea dragon is found mostly in kelp beds, rocky reefs, and sea grass meadows(4). The sea dragon likes the kelp beds, rocky reefs, and sea grass meadows because these type of habitats are conducive with their survival. The sea dragon can camoflague in these type of environments and they also offer them protection from strong currents. These strong currents could wash them to shore or into open water where predators are more likely to eat them(2).

Eating Habits—
ARKive video - Male leafy seadragon catching prey
Sea Dragons do not have teeth. They also have a long pipe-like snouts which allow them to eat their food. They use their snout to suck in their food. Also, since the sea dragon does not have teeth they must eat things that are small enough to be swallowed whole. They eat crustaceans, but also shrimp and small fish. Yet their diet can vary based on where they are located. One very interesting characteristic of the sea dragon is that they have to be constantly eating. They do not have a stomach or digetive system to hold food in their bodies, so they need to be constantly eating for energy. The video to the left shows how the sea dragon catches its prey. You can see that the sea dragon is sucking the prey into its body with its snout.

Camoflague


The most unique characteristic of the sea dragon is their leaf like appendages for camouflage. Since the sea dragon is so slow moving it is very important for them to be able to camoflauge themselves. These structures help to make the sea dragon resemble floating pieces of seaweed(6). As mentioned before this helps especially in the kelp and other leafy environments in which the creatures live. Another aspect that helps to aid in the sea dragons camoflauge is the fact that some sea dragons can change color depending on age, diet, and stress level(7). This camoflague helps the sea dragon to catch prey as well as to hide from predators. The video to the right shows the sea dragon in its natural environment and how it uses its appendages to act as camoflague. Note how it simply seems to drift like the seaweed surrounding it.


Reproduction
Detail-of-leafy-seadragon-male-with-eggs-under-tail.jpg
This is a picture of the male carrying eggs.

A very unique characteristic of the sea dragon is the way in which they reproduce. The sea dragon reproduces once a year, and they also mate for life. Every year the females produce anywhere from 250-300 bright pink eggs. Yet as discussed earlier the sea dragon does not have a pouch to hold their eggs. So when reproduction season comes around the males develop patches on their tails. This are called brood patches. The female deposits eggs onto the “brood patch” which is when the eggs get fertilized. This brood patch also delivers oxygen to the eggs while the are incubating. The eggs incubate on the males tail for about 6-8 weeks before they hatch. When the male sea dragon feels that the eggs are ready to hatch he assissts them by vigorisouly shaking their tale as well as scraping it against rocks. After the eggs hatch the young are fully independent, they are left to survive without any help from their mother or father. Once the eggs do hatch only abou 5% of the eggs survive. Luckily for the eggs that do survive the grow quickly. They reach around 20 cm in one year and grow to full maturity in two years.(1) Leafy sea dragons have a lifespan anywhere from 5 to 1- years(4).
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Threats
The leafy sea dragon is considered to be a Near Threatened Species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species(1). Another major threat (which may seem simple) are strong water currents. Since the sea dragon cannot grab onto things with its tail a strong current can take the sea dragon out of its environment. This can leave the sea dragon in open ocean with less chance for survival. Another major threat is the loss of habitat for the sea dragon. One of the major sources of this loss is industrial run off as well as pollution(2). Another threat is divers who take the sea dragon for souvenirs and curios. Many people want the sea dragon as a pet so the divers can even sell them for a profit. Along with capturing the sea dragon for a souvenir they are also captured for the chinese market. They are popular in being used for alternative medicines in the chinese market(5).
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This is a picture taken at the semiannual leafy sea dragon festival.

Austrailia and the Sea DragonThe leafy sea dragon is the official marine emblem of the state of South Australia. Every two years the state holds a leafy sea dragon festival. Hold a Leafy Sea Dragon festival once every two years. The first festival was held in 2005 which nearly 7,000 people coming. Along with this the Leafy Sea Dragon is the official marine emblem for the state of South Australia. Also, in the 1990s the Australian Government put a complete protection on the leafy sea dragon(8).


1. " Leafy Sea Dragons, Phycodurus eques at MarineBio.org". MarineBio.org. 26 September 2011 <http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=31>. Last updated: 9/16/2011 9:15:14 PM.
2.Leafy and Weedy Sea Dragons, Leafy and Weedy Sea Dragon Pictures, Leafy and Weedy Sea Dragon Facts - National Geographic." Animals - Animal Pictures - Wild Animal Facts - Nat Geo Wild - National Geographic. National Geographic. Web. 26 Sept. 2011. <http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/sea-dragon/>.3. "ARKive - Leafy Seadragon Video - Phycodurus Eques - 08a." ARKive - Discover the World's Most Endangered Species. Web. 26 Sept. 2011. http://www.arkive.org/leafy-seadragon/phycodurus-eques/video-08a.html.4."Leafy Seadragon." New England Aquarium Home. Web. 26 Sept. 2011. http://www.neaq.org/animals_and_exhibits/animals/sea_dragons/index.php5. "Leafy Sea Dragon, Rocky Shores, Fishes, Phycodurus Eques." Monterey Bay Aquarium. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/AnimalDetails.aspx?enc=n3f4wmcSJaMOCtHyd6DEPA=6. "Leafy Sea Dragon." Marine Parks WA. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. http://www.marineparks.wa.gov.au/fun-facts/34-leafy-sea-dragon.html.
7."The Marine Emblem of South Australia - Leafy Seadragon." Department of the Premier and Cabinet - South Australia. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <http://www.premcab.sa.gov.au/emblems/dragon1.htm>.
8. "Leafy Sea Dragon Festival." District Council of Yankalilla. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <http://www.yankalilla.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=199>.