At the S.E.A. Aquarium, guests are jostling to snap pictures of our latest residents – the leafy sea dragon and weedy sea dragon. We talk to sea dragon expert and curator Jaime Sanchez Camara and find out five interesting facts about this marine animal.
1. The dudes get pregnant
Probably a fact that will get the nod of approval from the fairer sex, male sea dragons get pregnant and incubate some 200 eggs (above) for a pregnancy term of around two months. Don’t be mistaken, the guys can’t do it alone. The females hold the eggs and will transfer them into the males’ tails when both sexes are ready to reproduce. A male leafy sea dragon’s tail will turn bright yellow when he is ready to mate. One way to differentiate the gender is the size; the male has a bigger tail and female has bigger stomachs.
2. They cost a bomb
At $8,000, the leafy sea dragon is probably one of the most expensive marine animals in the aquarium. Comparatively, the weedy sea dragon costs just $2,000, which is by no means cheap. The animal’s beauty and the fact that aquariums can only get them from one supplier in Australia are the reasons for its hefty price, says Jaime. There are a total of 4 leafy and 10 weedy sea dragons in the tank; just do your math.
3. They are fragile marine animals
Extremely light sensitive and susceptible to knocks on the acrylic panel, the sea dragons are probably one of the more fragile marine animals around. They get scared where there are sudden changes in light and will start to swallow air from the surface, which will ultimately lead to their demise. You know what to do; turn off that flash.
4. Good swimmers
Though frail looking and small (the biggest they can grow is up to 40cms), sea dragons are actually good swimmers. Jaime recounts the days when he was researching them on site. “They are better swimmers than me. While I struggled against the strong current, I noticed that they had no problems.”
5.. They are likely to become endangered in the future
Endemic to the waters off Southern Australia, sea dragons are categorised as “near threatened” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened species. The reason? Their existence is threatened by pollution and damage to their natural habitats. A sea dragon in the wild has a lifespan of approximately seven years and while in captivity, it can live up to 10 years.
Want to find out more about the beautiful sea dragons? Head down to the aquarium today.