Leafy Seadragon (Phycodurus eques)

Family: Syngnathidae

"Majestic, delicate and beautiful; it's hard not to be captivated by the sighting of a Leafy Seadragon"

My first and only encounter with Leafy Seadragon's occurred under Rapid Bay Jetty in South Australia in 2004. My buddy (Aengus Moran) and I drove 1000km's in a day just on the hope that we could find and photograph the one species that we were both desperate to see. After spending 30 minutes under Rapid Bay with no success I was very disheartened thinking that we had wasted out time driving and diving here. But then local seadragon expert, Dr Andrew Bowie who was acting as our dive guide, swam over, grabbed me all very excited and took us to a spot where there was a pair of leafies. Success, the long trip had finally paid off!

The Leafy Seadragon (Phycodurus eques) is one of the most majestic animals in the marine world. The species is endemic to Australia and is the only species in its genus. It can be found in the waters of South Australia (its the marine emblem for SA) and can also sometimes be found in the waters off western Victoria and the southern part of Western Australia. They are generally found in areas that have a good coverage of seagrasses, kelp or Ecklonia weed. It is generally found at depths of 4 to 30 metres and in winter adults may come together in shallow bays to pair up and eventually mate. Similar to the Weedy Seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) the males will carry the eggs on the underside of its tail.

Pregnant males carry approximately 250-300 eggs on its tail, which are only about 4mm in diameter. Observations by divers and scientists have found that pregnant males are generally seen around November and December. The incubation time is approximately 8 weeks and then well advanced young hatch from the eggs. When fully grown the Leafy Seadragon grows to a length of approximately 35cm.

The Leafy Seadragon is a master of camouflage. It resembles a piece of floating weed and therefore predators such as other fish species don't notice it. As it is a master of camouflage it can be very difficult for divers to recognise a leafy; a diver will often be staring straight at it and not realise what it is. It is one of the most beautiful creatures to photograph and divers should insure that they keep their distance so they do not disturb the leafy. For further information on Leafy Seadragons, including details on diving etiquette with leafies, please checkout this website http://www.dragonsearch.asn.au/

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