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Weedy Sea Dragon
Weedy Sea dragons are only found in southern Australian waters, usually ranging from Geraldton WA, to Port Stephens NSW and down around Tasmania. They are weird and mystical looking, not quite seahorse, not quite fish. The Weedy Sea dragon is closely related to the seahorse, being a member of the Syngnathidae family. Their habitat is listed as moderately to sub-maximally exposed reefs between 1-50m. In Sydney have a number of dive sites where seadragons are spotted on almost every dive.
Weedy Seadragons can grow to about 46cm in length. They are orange/red in colour with numerous whitish spots on a lot of their body and along their tube-shaped snout. The seadragon also has bluish purple stripes and some yellow markings along their bodies as well. They have leaf-like appendages and a few short spines occurring along their body. The seadragon camouflage is quite good and they do resemble seaweed floating on the bottom of the sea floor. Unless you know what you are looking for seadragons can be easily overlooked. Once you have found a few of these creatures it becomes easier to spot them.
Weedy Sea dragons usually have a single brood of eggs per season, but if conditions are favourable they have been known to have two broods in one season. They usually breed in spring, however, several males weedy seadragon have been spotted in Sydney recently with eggs. Prior to mating, the male prepares the area of his tail where he will keep the eggs. This area becomes slightly swollen, soft and spongy. The female actually pushes the eggs onto the males tail. Once on his tail, they are fertilised. The male carries anything from 120 to 300 eggs on his tail. He carries the eggs for about 2 months and then the eggs hatch over a period of 6 days. The seadragon hatchlings are quite large when born ranging from 2.5cm-3.5cm in length and still have a yolk sac attached to them, which supports them for two days while their snout grows. Once their snout is grown they can begin to feed. Juveniles can double in length in one week and can reach 15cm by the end of 14 weeks. Some baby weedy seadragons (about 7cms) have been spotted recently on some of our dives at Kurnell. January this year a lot of juveniles were seen out at Kurnell.
The seadragons diet mainly consists of sea lice and other small crustaceans. They seem to suck their prey straight into the snout! There is much concern for the future of the Weedy Seadragon and others in their family. They are threatened by habitat destruction, and potentially by the aquarium trade. Currently, seadragons are protected under fisheries legislation federally and in most states where they occur, it is illegal to take or export them without a permit.
When diving with these beautiful creatures remember not to touch them, be happy to look and photograph the seadragon without harassing them.