Introduction: The Leafy Sea Dragon is a marine fish which is found in the family of Syngnathidae. Sea Horses also belong to this family. It is called the Leafy Sea Dragon because its shape resembles that of a mythical dragon, and because of the leafy projections that stem out of its body. The average lifespan is quite long, about 5-10 years. If you want to want to find one of these intricate animals you are going to have to travel to the Southern and Western coasts of Australia.
Anatomy: (searched for a half hour for a labeled diagram so here’s a picture with the main body parts defined)
Leaf Projections: The Leaf Projections stemming off of the Sea Dragon are not used for propulsion, but for camouflage. When they swim, the projections give them the allusion of floating seaweed. The Sea Dragon is able to change its body color according to its environment, but this depends of there age, diet, stress, and other factors.
Snout: The Sea Dragon has a long, pipe-like snout that it uses to eat. It has no teeth, so it uses the snout to suck up its prey, just like a seahorse or pipefish.
Pectoral and Dorsal Fin: The Sea Dragon uses both the pectoral and dorsal fin to swim. The pectoral fin is found on the ridge of its neck, and the dorsal is found closer to the end of the tail.
Tail: Unlike seahorses, the Sea Dragon cannot use its tail to grab or hold onto surfaces. It does not have a main purpose.
Form and Function: The Leafy Sea Dragon is a carnivore, and dines on small invertebrates such as shrimp, zooplankton, and larval fishes. It uses its snout to suck up small amounts of water, which contains its food. It needs to eat constantly, and because of this, is sucking in water most of the time. Using their two fins they are able to steer when they swim, and are even able to stay suspended in one spot. They have been recorded to stay in one spot for 68 hours, and can swim at speeds of 150 meters per hour!
Reproduction: Just like their seahorse relatives, the males care for the eggs until they hatch. Once the female produces the eggs, about 250 in all, she places them on the male’s tale, via a long tube. The eggs attach themselves to a brood patch so they can receive oxygen. It takes approximately 9 weeks for the eggs to hatch. During the 9 week period the eggs turn from pink to purple or orange. Only 5% of the eggs survive to hatch.
Impact on world/humanity: There is not enough known on Leafy Sea Dragons to have an impact on the world, but they are still kept in aquariums where they are researched to hopefully find an impact.
Journal/Article Review: http://aem.asm.org/cgi/content/short/72/1/284
This article is about how scientist found Epitheliocystis, also known as Chlamydiales bacteria, in Leafy Sea Dragons. Epitheliocytis is found in some fresh and salt water fish, and has recently been discovered in the gills of the Leafy Sea Dragon. If infection is considerable there is an increase in mucus around gills, fish becomes very tired and breathes rapidly. The mortality can be severe. The Leafy Sea Dragon is already near threatedof, and so an infection such as Epitheliocystis could be devastating to their population, especially since there is no cure or even treatment. (The article is very hard to understand)
Wikipedia, Initials. (2006, May 11). Leafy sea dragon . Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leafy_sea_dragon
Dive Gallery, Initials. (2004, October 6). Leafy sea dragon . Retrieved from http://divegallery.com/Leafy_Sea_Dragon.htm
New England Aquarium, Initials. (2008, July 18). Leafy seadragon . Retrieved from http://www.neaq.org/animals_and_exhibits/animals/sea_dragons/index.php