Sunday 30 June 2013

Weedy Seadragon

Image: John Turnbull
Phyllopteryx taeniolatus
If only more dragons were as calm and peaceful as the Weedy Seadragon... I wouldn't have to go out almost every month to save some stupid maiden from the fearsome claws and stinking breath of the cantankerous beasts. Do you know how much Dragonbane armour costs these days? It's ridiculous!

Maybe all that sea water soothes their furious brow?

Image: Richard Ling
Weedy Seadragons are... Seadragons! Their closest relatives are the Leafy Seadragons, although they are each the only species in their respective genus. Weedy Seadragons are the larger, darker, less ornate of the two... like a massive goth in a t-shirt.

Image: Richard Ling
Weedy Seadragons can reach as much as 45 cm (18 in) long and are found all along the coast of southern Australia, just like their Leafy cousins! It's so nice to see Australia experiment with completely harmless animals. Sometimes you just want to sit and smell the roses without getting your nose bitten off by flesh-eating flowers and toxic thrips.

Image: Ta-graphy
Like their Pipefish and Seahorse relatives, the Weedy Seadragon is not a strong swimmer; they can only tootle along using rapid undulations of their small, transparent fins. Their body is quite rigid because of a covering of bony plates, so they can't even do the kind of serpentine movements eels and other long fish use so successfully.

Video: Aquapix

This is why the Weedy Seadragon keeps itself to the more idyllic, slow-moving parts of the sea, especially since they don't have a nifty prehensile tail to let them grab hold of plants. The little, leafy stems on their body provide camouflage as they lounge among the seaweed...

Image: Richard Ling
I know it's difficult to believe, but there's a Weedy Sea Dragon hidden in this picture!
Apparently the NEON BLUE and LUMINESCENT YELLOW doesn't spoil the effect as much I would have thought. Perhaps these cybergoth accessories look different when you're underwater. And you're a fish.

Image: Klaus Stiefel
Look at that tiny mouth!
In common with Seahorses and Pipefish, the Weedy Seadragon has a fused jaw such that they have to suck food from the water as if through a straw. However, in this case their mouth comes at the end of a particularly splendid snout. Few can boast such a gloriously long kisser! It makes them look like a giant mosquito with far too many comically small wings. Luckily they eat tiny crustaceans rather than blood... lucky for things that aren't tiny crustaceans, that is.

Video: BBC or maybe kumeek

There's one time of year when male Weedy Seadragons add some pink to their unexpectedly bright flag of fluorescent colours. You might expect males to become more colourful when it's time to attract the female of the species but in this case, it's afterwards...

Image: Klaus Stiefel
They're his eggs!

Just like Seahorses, it's up to Daddy Weedy Seadragon to look after the eggs produced by his lady friend. He doesn't have a pouch to fit them in but, like the Leafy Seadragon, he just has a patch of skin on his tail which gets all puffy. The female sticks about 100 eggs on this brood patch and they stay there for about a month before they hatch.

Image: Richard Ling
The babies are independent as soon as they escape the egg. For quite a while they'll have to feed on things even smaller than tiny crustaceans but some day they will grow into the fearsomely multi-fanged, fire-breathing brutes of legend!



TexWisGirl said...

such cool and easy drifters. :)

Joseph JG said...

Yeah, it sounds like such a breezy life!