Leafy Sea Dragon

The leafy sea dragon (Phycodurus eques) is a marine fish related to pipefish and seahorses. It is the only member in its family Phycodurus. They are found around the southern and western coasts of Australia.

Its name derives from its appearance, with long leaf-like things protruding from its body, looking like a strand of kelp. Its mimicry helps it survive in the wild, hiding from predators and surprising and consuming prey. The leafy seadragon propels itself by means of a pectoral fin on the ridge of its neck and a dorsal fin on its back closer to the tail end. These small fins are almost completely transparent and difficult to see as they undulate minutely to move the creature sedately through the water, looking like floating seaweed or kelp.

Leafy seadragons are subject to many threats, both natural and man-made. They are caught by collectors and used in alternative medicine. They are vulnerable when first born, and are slow swimmers, reducing their chance of escaping from a predator. Seadragons are often washed ashore after storms, as unlike their relative the seahorse, seadragons cannot curl their tails and hold onto seagrasses to stay safe.

Ahe species has become endangered through pollution and industrial runoff, as well as a collection for the aquarium trade. In response to these dangers, the species has been totally protected in South Australia since 1987, Victoria since at least 1995, and Western Australia since 1991. According to Wikipedia, “the species’ listing in the Australian government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 means that the welfare of the species has to be considered as a part of any developmental project.”

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