Weedy seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus)

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Weedy seadragon male with egg cases on tail
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Weedy seadragon fact file

Weedy seadragon description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassActinopterygii
OrderSyngnathiformes
FamilySyngnathidae
GenusPhyllopteryx (1)

Weedy seadragons are one of only two species of seadragons, the second is known as the leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques) due to the greater number of leaf-like appendages along its body (2). Seadragons resemble the seahorses to which they are related, having a bony-plated body and elongated snout; their tails are not prehensile however (3). Adult weedy seadragons are a reddish colour, with yellow and purple markings; they have small leaf-like appendages that provide camouflage and a number of short spines for protection (4). Males have narrower bodies and are darker than females (4). Seadragons have a long dorsal fin along the back and small pectoral fins on either side of the neck, which provide balance (3).

Also known as
Common seadragon.
Size
Length: up to 46 cm (2)
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Weedy seadragon biology

These fish are slow-moving and rely on their camouflage as protection against predation; they drift in the water and with the leaf-like appendages resemble the swaying seaweed of their habitat (4). Individuals are observed either on their own or in pairs; feeding on planktonic organisms by sucking prey into their toothless mouths (4). Like seahorses, seadragon males are the sex that cares for the developing eggs. Females lay around 120 eggs onto the brood patch located on the underside of the males tail (4). The eggs are fertilised and carried by the male for around a month before the hatchlings emerge (4).

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Weedy seadragon range

Endemic to southern Australian waters, the weedy seadragon is found along the south coast from the Abrolhos Islands in Western Australia to Port Stephens, New South Wales. The range also includes the coast of Tasmania (3).

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Weedy seadragon habitat

Inhabiting coastal waters down to at least 50 metres deep, weedy seadragons are associated with rocky reefs, seaweed beds, seagrass meadows and structures colonised by seaweed (6).

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Weedy seadragon status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened

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Weedy seadragon threats

This species is not at present a target of the trade in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is currently affecting seahorse numbers. However, they are likely to be threatened by the destruction of habitat that is occurring along coastal waters as a result of development and pollution (5).

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Weedy seadragon conservation

Currently, it is illegal to take or export these species in most of the states within which they occur (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 (4). 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 (4).

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Find out more

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Authentication

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

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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 fin
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.
Planktonic
Aquatic organisms that drift with water movements; may be either phytoplankton (plants), or zooplankton (animals).
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2006)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. Australia Museum online (April, 2003)
    http://www.amonline.net.au/fishes/fishfacts/fish/ptaeniolatus.htm
  3. Melbourne Aquarium (April, 2003)
    http://www.melbourneaquarium.com.au/viewanimal.asp?animalid=27&category=&page=2
  4. Dragon Search (April, 2003)
    http://www.dragonsearch.asn.au
  5. Gramp, J. (2003) Pers. comm.
  6. Western Australia Department of Fisheries (April, 2003)
    http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/rec/broc/fishcard/dragon.html
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Image credit

Weedy seadragon male with egg cases on tail  
Weedy seadragon male with egg cases on tail

© Becca Saunders / Auscape International

Auscape International
PO Box 1024,
Bowral
NSW
25a76
Australia
Tel: (+61) 2 4885 2245
Fax: (+61) 2 4885 2715
sales@auscape.com.au
http://www.auscape.com.au

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