Leafy seadragons have ornate, leaf-like appendages that resemble sea weed and are used for camouflage. Relatives of the seahorses, these graceful fish float around the reefs of South Australia.
They average 30cm in length.
Leafy seadragons are a type of pipefish, with characteristic elongated snouts and bony, exoskeletal rings.
Wide, flat, leafy appendages branch out from the body and camouflage the seadragon. Hidden amongst these are sharp spines for defence. Colour varies from green to yellowy-brown, often with red-edged, white streaks.
They are found off the southern coast of Australia.
Seadragons inhabit clear, temperate waters at depths of 5-15m where there is vegetation.
Shrimp, plankton and larval fish are its main prey. The seadragon sucks these into its mouth.
They move slowly and hide in seaweed to ambush prey. They are usually found swimming alone or in pairs.
Unusually, the male incubates the eggs in pockets on the underside of the tail. The 200-300 eggs produced by the female are transferred to these pockets and fertilised. Incubation takes around four weeks. The hatchlings are quickly able to swim and hunt.
Leafy seadragons are in decline through habitat destruction and aquarium harvest.