Leafy Sea Dragons are some of the most interesting-looking creatures in the ocean. They live among kelp forests and kelp beds off of the southern and southwestern coast of Australia. Their movements, appearance and adaptations make them fascinating creatures to see and learn about.
Leafy Sea Dragons have appendages growing off of their bodies that look remarkably like seaweed. Their bodies are typically yellow, brown or reddish in color, with greenish appendages and they are approximately 18 inches long as adults. They have minuscule pectoral fins on their heads and dorsal fins along their backs. They also have rows of spines on their backs as well, that they sometimes use to scare off predators by curling up and presenting them.
These creatures appear to glide through the water with no effort on their part, when in fact that are using their tiny fins to aid in their movement. Leafy Sea Dragons blend in nearly perfectly with their surroundings which aids in the determent of predators, so they are not preyed upon often. However, their bodies are supposed to be very delicate, so handling them is not advisable and any rough contact in the water could damage them. They are solitary creatures, with the exception of mating.
Male Leafy Sea Dragons carry the young. During mating the female delivers 100-250 eggs into the males “brood patch,” which is located on the underside of his tail. The male then incubates the eggs for roughly 6-8 weeks before “birthing” or more accurately, releasing them. Once the young have left the father they are completely on their own and go on to learn the ropes of survival.
When Leafy Sea Dragon offspring are old enough, they will eat mostly amphipods and fish larvae. They eat by sucking the food through their mouth, which is located on a very long, thin snout. They will reach full maturity at roughly two years of age and can be expected to live for five or ten years. However, only an estimated 5% of Leafy Sea Dragon offspring will survive to adulthood.
At this time, the Leafy Sea Dragon is not an endangered species. However, they are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They may not be endangered, but their survival depends on their surroundings very much. These fish would be extremely vulnerable in open water and are indigenous to their region of the Australian waters. If anything catastrophic were to happen to their habitat, the Leafy Sea Dragon would not survive.