6/17/11

Dragons Exist at the Aquarium

While they may not be the fire-breathing animals of myth, the seadragons at the Aquarium (found in the Thinking Gallery on the second floor) are pretty remarkable. We are lucky enough to have both leafy and weedy seadragons.

 
 The weedy sea dragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) has smaller appendages but more varied color.

The leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques) is the species with the more ornate, leaf-like appendages.

What’s really cool about coming to the Aquarium and seeing these two species is that once you do, you have then seen EVERY known species of sea dragon in the world! These animals are what are known as endemic. Endemic means they are found in only one location on the planet; in the case of seadragons, they are found only in southern Australia. In 2009, New England Aquarium Senior Aquarist Jeremy Brodt, went on expedition to this seadragon habitat. You can read his final blog post from that expedition here, and check out this video he took of a leafy seadragon male in the wild. If you look closely you can see he has eggs on his tail!



These fish are obviously designed for camouflage. In fact, the fins that they use for propulsion are almost entirely transparent, so even when they are swimming they just appear to be floating—and this helps them to look even more like just another piece of seaweed.

 Weedy seadragon among seaweed (Photo: Jeremy Brodt)

While these adaptations help sea dragons to avoid predators, their excellent camouflage also makes it very hard for scientists to get a good population count in the wild. However, even though their numbers are unknown, they are cherished animals in Australia and are protected due to their small geographic range.



So next time you’re at the Aquarium, make sure you stop by and check out these charismatic fish.

-Sam

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