Leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques)

loading
Leafy seadragon swimming
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Leafy seadragon fact file

Leafy seadragon description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassActinopterygii
OrderSyngnathiformes
FamilySyngnathidae
GenusPhycodurus (1)

Leafy seadragons (Phycodurus eques) are exquisitely camouflaged fish. Belonging to the same family as seahorses and pipefish (Syngnathidae), they resemble these with their elongated snout and bony-plated body (2). Leafy seadragons are yellowish-brown to green in colour, although they may vary depending on their age, diet or location (2). The pectoral fins are located on the neck, and a dorsal fin runs along the seadragon's back (3). As their common name suggests, there are a number of leaf-like appendages along the body, which help to make these fish resemble the seaweed of their habitat. The eyes are located above the elongated snout and there are a number of defensive spines along the sides of the body (2).

Also known as
Glauert’s seadragon.
Size
Length: 30 cm (2)
Top

Leafy seadragon biology

Leafy seadragons are seen either solitarily or in pairs, they are slow-moving and rely on their elegant camouflage to provide protection from predators (2). In common with seahorses, it is the male seadragon that carries the developing eggs. The breeding season runs from October to March (5), and males develop a 'brood patch' on the underside of the tail that consists of cups of blood-rich tissue, which each hold an egg (4). The female transfers around 120 eggs into these pits; the eggs are then fertilised and carried by the male for about a month (2). Hatchlings emerge over several days and are initially only around 20 millimetres in length. They are extremely vulnerable to predation but grow quickly, attaining adult size by the time they are two years old (2). Seadragons feed on small organisms such as plankton and mysids by sucking them into their tube-like snout (2).

Top

Leafy seadragon range

Endemic to southern Australia, the leafy seadragon is known from Geraldton in Western Australia to the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria (5).

Top

Leafy seadragon habitat

Inhabiting rocky reefs, seaweed beds, seagrass meadows and structures colonised by seaweed, leafy seadragons are found in shallow coastal waters down to at least 30 metres deep (5).

Top

Leafy seadragon status

The leafy seadragon is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened

Top

Leafy seadragon threats

Unlike seahorses, seadragons are not in demand from the Traditional Chinese Medicine market but they may nevertheless be captured for the aquarium trade. Loss of habitat is considered the greatest threat to seadragons. Coastal habitats are increasingly damaged from the effects of urban and agricultural run-off, industrial pollution and other human activities and impacts (5).

Top

Leafy seadragon conservation

Little is known about the population distribution of leafy seadragons, or much of their behaviour. They are fully protected in Australian waters (4). A database of seadragon sightings, known as 'Dragon Search' has been established with support from the Marine and Coastal Community Network (MCCN), Threatened Species Network (TSN) and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), which encourages divers to report sightings (2). Monitoring of populations may provide indications of local water quality and seadragons could also become an important 'flagship' species for the often-overlooked richness of the unique flora and fauna of Australia's south coast (2).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Top

Find out more

For more information on seadragons:

Top

Authentication

Authenticated (25/6/03) by Jeremy Gramp, Dragon Search.
http://www.dragonsearch.asn.au/

Top

Glossary

Dorsal fin
In fish, the unpaired fin found on the back of the body.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Pectoral fins
In fish, the pair of fins that are found one on each side of the body just behind the gills. They are generally used for balancing and braking.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2009)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. Dragon Search (April, 2003)
    http://www.dragonsearch.asn.au/
  3. Australia Museum Online (April, 2003)
    http://www.amonline.net.au/fishes/fishfacts/fish/peques.htm
  4. Gramp, J. (2003) Pers. comm.
  5. Western Australia Department of Fisheries (April, 2003)
    http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/rec/broc/fishcard/dragon.html
X
Close

Image credit

Leafy seadragon swimming  
Leafy seadragon swimming

© Valerie Taylor / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
London
SE3 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
ardea@ardea.co.uk
http://www.ardea.com

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog RSS