Hailong's physical characteristics
- skin type
- 2 – 10 years
- 20 cm – 24 cm (10" – 12")
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Poor swimming ability, but good at camouflage, the sea dragon is a unique sharp-billed fish!
While their name may not imply this, sea dragons are actually poor swimmers of fish, often drifting with the current rather than trying to swim. This often brightly colored fish lives in waters off Australia and Tasmania. They rely on their camouflage to protect themselves from predators and survive by eating tiny prey like small fish and crustaceans — even if they don't have teeth.
5 Sea Dragon Facts
• Male sea dragons have a patch near their tail that they use to carry eggs laid by female sea dragons.
• There are only three known sea dragons, the latest being the ruby sea dragon, discovered in 2015.
• Sea dragons pretend to blend in with the environment.
• All types of sea dragons are carnivorous.
• The tail of a male leafy sea dragon turns bright yellow when it is ready to breed.
Three different types of sea dragons have been identified. The first of these was the leafy sea dragon, Phycodurus eques . Phycodurus comes from the Latin words "phyko", which means seaweed, and "oura", which means tail. The word eques comes from the Latin "equus", which means horse.
The second species of sea dragon is the weedy sea dragon, Phylopteryx taeniolatus , sometimes called the common sea dragon. The first part of its scientific name comes from the Greek "phyhllon" for leaf and "pteryx" for fin or wing. The second part of its name is based on the Latin word "taeniolar", which means ribbon.
Finally, the third known species of sea dragon is the ruby sea dragon, Phylopteryx dewysea . The first part of its name is the same as a weed sea dragon or a common sea dragon. The second part of its scientific name, dewysea , honors longtime sea dragon supporter and researcher Mary "Dewy" Lowe, who included the word "sea" because of her deep love for the sea.
evolution and history
The oldest sea dragon fossil ever found was likely from more than 180 million years ago and was 33 feet long, leading researchers to believe its ancestors were much larger than the species we see today. Leafy sea dragons are part of the larger family of sea dragons, which also includes seahorses and pipefish, although only three sea dragons of their particular species are rare.
Their traits are thought to evolve fairly quickly due to repetitive DNA sequences known as jumping genes.
appearance and behavior
These animals are a type of pipefish with a long and narrow body and tail. They also have camouflage to help protect them from predators. For example, the leafy sea dragon's body is covered with leaf-like appendages that help it hide in seaweed and kelp. Its body color ranges from yellow to brown with olive spots, which increase its ability to hide among the underwater vegetation it makes its home in.
Conversely, the weedy sea dragon has only a few appendages, but these appendages are just enough to break up its silhouette and help it blend into the environment. This fish usually lives on the bottom of the sea rather than in seaweed and kelp – with reddish and yellow spots or markings.
Ruby sea dragons are deep red in color and have only a few very short stumps. Not much is known about this sea dragon, but scientists think its coloring helps hide it in the deeper water it lives in, since red is nearly invisible in the depths of the ocean.
All three animals tend to drift with the water because they are not strong swimmers. Instead of chasing their prey, they hide and wait for their prey, ambush it when it approaches them. They do have small fins on their back and sides which are used for propulsion, but these almost invisible fins are not very powerful and are mainly used for maneuvering and slow swimming. Neither leafy sea dragons nor weedy sea dragons have graspable tails, which means they can't use them to grab branches or anything, but ruby sea dragons do have graspable tails, which they can use when they choose to do so. They fix themselves in one position.
Sea dragons are shy, solitary fish that do not live in groups, although they have been observed in pairs. Most of the time, they float freely in the water, effortlessly controlling where they go, looking more like seaweed than fish. Individuals vary widely in length, but typical sea dragons can reach 18 inches in length, which is slightly longer than the height of a bowling pin. Leafy seadragons are smaller than weedy seadragons.
These animals are only found in the waters off southern and western Australia and off Tasmania. Mostly, they live in shallow, coastal waters, but may also be found down to depths of up to 150 feet. Ruby sea dragons have been found to live in much deeper water than other species, which may be why they were not discovered until recently. All sea dragons live in or near kelp, kelp forests, along rocky reefs, or in and around seagrass beds, although they also often drift freely in and around marine plant life.
However, the similar-looking seahorse has a wider distribution, including 46 recognized species.
These animals are carnivores, but their food is limited because their mouths are long tubes and their jaws cannot be opened. Sea dragons hide and wait for their prey, ambush and eat anything small enough to fit in their mouths. They eat fish larvae, tiny crustaceans, very small fish, sea lice, mysis, worms and zooplankton.
They swallow their food whole because they don't have jaws to chew on, and they don't have teeth. To capture prey, they use the powerful suction of their jaws to suck the prey in. They have to eat everything they eat as if drinking through a straw. Once it's in its mouth, sea dragons can swallow their prey whole.
Predators and Threats
It's unclear which predators, if any, these animals were afraid of. Scientists believe that sea dragons' camouflage helps them avoid attracting attention, so they aren't as targeted as many other species. They are also bony, which may make them less attractive to predators than many other fish species. However, if it encounters a predatory fish such as a shark, it still has the potential to treat it as a meal, since sea dragons have no defenses other than being able to hide. Almost anything will devour babies because they lack the camouflage of adult animals, and they hatch at the same time, so predators can easily find them. Not many young people survive to grow up.
The main threat to the continued existence of these animals is habitat destruction, primarily loss of algae and seagrass beds. This is caused by human activities, especially pollution, and changes brought about by global warming. These animals are also captured by humans as aquarium pets, an activity that severely reduces the population. In the 1990s, laws to protect sea dragons were enacted in most places where sea dragons are found, and at this point, populations appear to be fairly stable. Sea dragons do sometimes get entangled in fishing nets and die as a result, but this usually does not kill a large number of sea dragons.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the current conservation status of these animals is close to Threatened (NT). Current populations of these animals appear to be sufficient to support their survival in the wild, but that could change if habitat loss continues.
Reproduction, Babies and Longevity
Little is known about the mating rituals of these animals. They do seem to have some sort of courtship behavior, with males approaching females during breeding season. Still, it's unclear what triggers their mating behavior. However, it is believed that males may compete with other males for breeding rights.
When the time is right, the female lays her pink eggs on the spongy skin under the male's tail. He fertilized them as they deposited. She can lay 100 to 300 eggs at a time. The male's skin forms tiny cups to hold the eggs in place, keeping them safe and oxygenated until they hatch. This can take anywhere from four to eight weeks, depending on conditions, especially water temperature. The warmer the water, the faster the eggs will hatch. Once a pair is formed, they stay together until spawning.
When the babies (also known as fry) hatch, they look like miniature versions of their parents, except that they lack any of the camouflage appendages that adult animals have. These begin to grow shortly after birth, but they won't do the newly hatched hatchlings any favors for at least a few days. Since the male's job is done after the babies hatch and the females are long gone, the cubs receive no care or adult protection from the moment they are born into the world. Lack of camouflage and parental care makes newborn babies easy targets for predators and results in high mortality rates.
The lifespan of these animals ranges from three to ten years, with six years being their average age. They can reproduce when they are about a year old, but more commonly they wait until they are sexually mature at about two years of age.
There has never been an accurate count of the number of these animals, nor is it known how many of them exist in the wild. Leafy sea dragon populations are currently endangered due to habitat loss due to pollution, human destruction and dangerous fishing practices. These fish are of particular concern because they have a very limited range, so if their habitat is damaged or destroyed, they are likely to die rather than migrate.
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Dragonsea FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What do sea dragons eat – are they carnivores, herbivores or omnivores?
Sea dragons are carnivores. They eat only meat, including fish, shrimp, sea lice, zooplankton, worms, and other tiny creatures that can be sucked into their straw-like proboscis.
What eats sea dragon?
Sea dragons are excellently camouflaged and can ward off most predators, but they may be eaten if spotted by predatory fish. Newly hatched juveniles are usually eaten by any fish that happen to be nearby when they first hatch, since they are easily visible at this time.
How much does a sea dragon cost?
Hai Long cannot be bought. They are protected by law in Australia and Tasmania, and are not available to hobbyists who want to buy them.
Is Hailong dangerous?
Hai Long is not dangerous. They are shy animals and cannot move quickly. They also don't have any means of doing damage to anything too big to fit in their straw-like noses. Sea dragons do not have any teeth, claws or venom.
How big is Hailong?
When sea dragons first hatch, they are tiny and look like miniature versions of their parents, lacking only the protective camouflage, and they will start growing within a few days of birth. The largest sea dragon is 18 inches long.
What are the Different Types of Sea Dragons?
There are three types of sea dragons: weed sea dragons (also known as common sea dragons), leaf sea dragons, and ruby sea dragons.
Are seahorses and sea dragons related?
Seahorses and sea dragons are relatives. They all belong to the families Syngnathiformes and Syngnathidae. When comparing the two visually, it can be seen that they share many common features. However, seahorses belong to the genus Hippocampus, while sea dragons belong to the genus Phycodurus or Phylopteryx. They do have similarities and some things in common, but they are also very different creatures.
What is Sea Dragon Rocket?
The Sea Dragon rocket is not an animal, but a rocket program developed in 1962 to launch heavy objects into space. The concept called for a Sea Dragon rocket to be launched from the ocean, but the project was never built and was eventually abandoned.
What is a sea dragon behemoth?
Sea dragons are not real creatures, but ferocious beasts that only live in fantasy books and video games. The name is taken from a real animal, but they have nothing else in common.
Which kingdom does Hailong belong to?
Sea dragons belong to the animal kingdom.
What door does Hailong belong to?
Sea dragons belong to the phylum Chordate.
What category does Sea Dragon belong to?
Sea dragons belong to the class Actinopterygii.
Which family does Hai Long belong to?
Sea dragons belong to the sea dragon family.
What order does Hai Long belong to?
Sea dragons belong to the order Syngnathiformes.
What genus does sea dragon belong to?
Sea dragons belong to the genus Phycodurus.
What type of cover does Sea Dragons have?
Sea dragons are covered with scales.
What type of habitat do sea dragons live in?
Sea dragons live in tropical coastal waters.
What are the salient features of Hailong?
Sea dragons have slender snouts and easily camouflaged bodies.
What is the average clutch size for a Sea Dragon?
Sea Dragons typically lay 250 eggs.
Any fun facts about sea dragons?
Sea dragons inhabit Australia's tropical coastal waters!
What is the scientific name of Hailong?
The scientific name of sea dragon is Phycodurus Eques.
What is the lifespan of Hailong?
Sea dragons can live from 2 to 10 years.
What is the optimal pH for Sea Dragon?
Sea Dragon's optimal pH is between 6.5 and 8.0.
How does Hailong give birth?
Sea dragons lay eggs.
What is the difference between a sea dragon and a seahorse?
Sea dragons and seahorses are similar sea creatures, but differ in several ways. Sea dragons and seahorses are close relatives, but there are only two species of sea dragons, which live in Australia and look like floating seaweed. Seahorses are found throughout the world, come in nearly 50 species, and have a bony appearance.
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- David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2011) Animals, The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife
- Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) Encyclopedia of World Animals
- David Burney, Kingfisher (2011) The Animal Encyclopedia of Kingfishers
- Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) Atlas of Threatened Species
- David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia
- Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Animal Encyclopedia
- Science Alert, available here: https://www.sciencealert.com/the-secret-to-sea-dragons-fabulous-features-is-in-their-genes