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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Species Fact Profile: Leafy Sea Dragon (Phycodurus eques)

Leafy Sea Dragon
Phycodurus eques (Gunther, 1865)

Range: Coastal Southern Australia
Habitat: Reefs, Seaweed Beds, Seagrass Meadows
Diet: Small Invertebrates, Larval Fish
Social Grouping: Solitary or Paired
Reproduction: Female lays 250-300 eggs, which are carried by the male in a brood patch, located at the base of his tail.  Eggs hatch after 6-8 weeks, at which young are completely independent.  Sexually maturity reached at two years
Lifespan: 5-10 Years
Conservation Status: IUCN Near Threatened

  • Body length is 35 centimeters, about half of which is consists of tail.  Unlike the closely-related sea horses, the tail cannot be coiled and uncoiled
  • Scaleless body is covered with hard, bony plates (each with a sharp spine for defense) yellow or green in color with pink banding.  The long, thin head tapers into a pipe-like snout.  
  • The entire body is covered with elaborate leaf-like appendages, camouflaging the sea dragon by making it resemble seaweed
  • Very slow swimmers due to plating on the skin (will sometimes remain sedentary for days at a time), only able to move forward with their ventral and pelvic fins (the pectoral fins are used for maneuvering)
  • Feeds by drawing water into its mouth and sucking out mysid shrimp, plankton, and other small marine animals
  • Threats include habitat loss, pollution, and over-collection by humans, especially for Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Captive breeding of the species has so far been unsuccessful, despite major advances in husbandry
  • Official marine emblem of South Australia

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