Seadragons - Masters of Disguise
Masters of mimicry, these extraordinary creatures have earned their reputation as the Marcel Marceau of the sea. Seadragons are decorated by seaweed like appendages that help them to blend in with their leafy environment.
As well as looking like seaweed, seadragons also move in a similar swaying motion as seaweed would if caught in a current. This nifty trick allows the Seadragon to sneak up on prey and also to appear virtually invisible to predators. This type of camouflage is called ‘mimicry’.
The Weedy Seadragon complements its bizarre appearance with bright colouring, comprising of an orange-red background colour, bright blue stripes, and many white spots and yellow markings. Leafy Seadragons aren’t quite as ostentatious with its fashion, with green to yellow-brown colouring and pale bands on its body.
Unlike their seahorse cousins, Seadragons do not have curly grasping tails but long straight tails.
The seadragons’ long snouts are perfectly suited for sucking up plankton, larval fishes and small shrimp-like crustaceans, called mysids. Seadragons are not strong swimmers having only small fins on either side of their heads and a long shimmering dorsal fin to propel them through the water. So instead of chasing after their dinner they prefer to drift through the water camouflaged as a piece of seaweed until their prey swim by and then they quickly suck it out of the water.
Both the Weedy and Leafy Seadragon exclusively call the south coast of Australia home. Leafy Seadragons can be found between Lancelin in Western Australia and Wilsons Promontory in Victoria while Weedy Seadragons are a little less fussy, being found all along the south coast as well as southern New South Wales and Tasmania. The people of Victoria feel so privileged to have such a remarkable creature living in their waters that they named the Weedy Seadragon their marine state emblem.
Seadragons like the safety and cover of shallow protected reefs, seaweed beds, seagrass meadows and structures colonised by seaweed such as pier pylons. They prefer shallow waters and are usually found frolicking at a depth of around 10 metres but have been known to venture as deep as 50 metres.
Like all members of the Pipe Fish family, Seadragons reverse parenting roles. The female lays her eggs and the male looks after them, keeping them safely tucked away under his tail. They stay there for two months until they hatch. The clever Seadragons stagger the hatching process to that the baby seadragons don’t have to compete for food. The juveniles then go through a pretty big growth spurt, attaining a size of around 70 millimetres in just three weeks!
Judging a book by its cover
You can tell a lot about Seadragons by their colouring. Their colour can change depending on age, diet, location, depth, or stress.
Seadragon Fasct Facts:
- Common Name: Weedy Seadragon
- Scientific Name: Phyllopteryx taeniolatus
- Habitat: Shallow weedy areas in Port Phillip Bay and large open estuaries
- Diet: Mysid shrimp and plankton
- Size: Up to 45cm
- Range: Southern Australian waters from Sydney south around to Western Australia
- Threats: Habitat loss
- Conservation Status: Near threatened