|The Syngnathidae family includes marine animals like the seahorse, and the weedy and leafy seadragons. In Greek, syn means fused and gnathus means jaws. So like the seahorse and many others in this family, the weedy seadragon and leafy seadragon have elongated snouts and fused jaws, a little like a pout.
- No prizes for guessing why these seadragons got their ‘first names’. Both seadragons have evolved ways to camouflage themselves in their environments and catch their prey. The leafy seadragon, with its leaf-like protrusions, is especially hard to detect with the human eye.
- Seadragons have very long, thin snouts; slender trunks covered in bony rings; and thin tails which, unlike their seahorse cousins, cannot be used for gripping. They have small, transparent dorsal and pectoral fins that propel and steer them through the water, but they are quite content to drift in the current like seaweed.
- Leafies grow to a length of about 14 inches (35 cm), while the slightly larger weedies can grow up to 18 inches (46 cm) long.
- As with seahorses, seadragon males are responsible for childbearing. But unlike male sea horses, male seadragons do not have a pouch. The underside of a male seadragon’s tail gets spongy when it is ready to receive the eggs. The females deposit their bright-pink eggs during mating and the eggs are fertilized during the transfer from the female to the male. The males incubate the eggs and carry them to term, releasing miniature sea dragons into the water after about four to six weeks.
- Seadragons survive on tiny crustaceans such as mysids. It is not known if they are preyed upon by other animals. They were frequently taken by divers in the past. In fact, such takings shrank their numbers so critically by the early 1990s that the Australian government placed a complete protection on both species. Pollution and habitat loss have also hurt their numbers, and they are currently listed as near threatened.
Check out these other facts on these marine animals and their ‘royal treatment‘.
Other marine animal facts.
-Phyllopteryx taeniolatus (Weedy)
-Phycodurus eques (Leafy)
Found in the mid-south half of Australia (east and west); leafy seadragons are restricted to southern waters
Mysids (small shrimp-like crustaceans)
Up to 45cm