One of the most visually striking creatures in the sea, the Weedy Seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) is one of two species of seadragons; the other being the slightly smaller but more flamboyant Leafy Seadragon (Phycodurus eques).
A relative of the seahorse and pipefish, Weedy Seadragons are found in rocky reefs, seaweed beds, algae covered reefs and seagrass meadows along New South Wales, Australia. Adults often live in water deeper than 10 metres while juveniles tend to stay within the kelp and sea grass regions.
These slow-moving fish rely on their small leaf-like appendages to camouflage against predators. While they have small, transparent dorsal and pectoral fins that propel and steer them through the water, they seem quite content to drift in the current, resembling the swaying seaweed in their habitat. Their ‘drifting’ behaviour is also due to their lack of a prehensile tail which enables similar species, such as the seahorse, to clasp and anchor themselves.
They have neither teeth nor stomach
Weedy Seadragons do not have teeth. Instead, they use their elongated snouts and fused jaws to suck prey like zooplankton and tiny mysid shrimps into their mouths. And because they also do not have a digestive system, they feed slowly and frequently.
Fanciful courtship, males get pregnant
As part of their courtship ritual, a pair of Weedy Seadragons will swim together and gradually touch each other with the base of their tails as they slowly rise to the water surface. The female then deposits about 120 bright pink eggs into the spongy brood patch on the underside of the male’s tail. The male incubates the eggs and carry them to term, releasing baby sea dragons into the water about four to six weeks later.
Here’s a rare footage of a female Weedy Seadragon transferring her eggs to the male:
And here’s a beautiful video by BBC which showcases the courtship and birth: