Underwater masters of disguise, leafy seadragons take their name from their greenish coloring and their many appendages that look like seaweed.
They belong to a group of fish closely related to seahorses and are found exclusively along the southern coast of Australia. Like their more famous cousins, seadragons have armor-like exoskeletons, and fertilized eggs are tended by the male. But seadragons have longer snouts than seahorses and cannot use their tail to grasp onto their surroundings.
Leafy seadragons are weak swimmers, so they avoid predators by blending in with their surroundings. They also move with the waves just like seaweed, which makes them even more difficult to spot.
Scientists aren’t sure how well leafy seadragons are doing these days. Unlike seahorses, they are not sought after by the traditional Chinese medicine market. There are anecdotal reports of seadragons accidentally caught by fishermen, but no estimates of how many fish this affects.
The more pressing concern is habitat loss: seadragons live in only a small strip of Australian waters, and their habitat is being destroyed by sewage from nearby cities. On the other hand, local governments have enacted several protection measures, and leafy seadragons, which are an important ecotourism draw, are the official fish of South Australia.
Learn more about the leafy seadragon and other fascinating animals at Oceana’s marine encyclopedia.