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Weedy seadragon

Phyllopteryx taeniolatus

Description: Weedy seadragons are orangish-yellow to red in color with numerous off-white spots on their body and along their tube-shaped snout. They also have bluish-purple stripes and some yellow markings along their bodies. They have leaf-like appendages with a few short spines occurring along their body. A long dorsal and small pectoral fins aid in moving and balancing. Unlike seahorses, the tail is non-prehensile.

Size: Adults can reach a maximum size of up to 18 inches (46 cm). The bodies of the males are darker and narrower.

Behavior: They are usually solitary or in pairs, moving slowly and relying on their excellent camouflage to help protect them as they drift around searching for food.

Diet: Weedy seadragons use powerful suction to draw water and prey into their long, thin, tubular snout (which is their mouth). Special muscles in the snout can widen to allow for the capturing of different sizes of food. Their diet consists mainly of planktonic organisms, such as small crustaceans and sea lice.

Senses: Weedy seadragons use their keen eyesight to detect prey.

Reproduction: Breeding occurs annually, usually in late spring. Prior to mating, the male Weedy seadragon prepares the area of his tail where he will keep the eggs. His tail becomes slightly swollen, soft and spongy. The female lays up to 250-300 eggs on this area and they are fertilized. The male seadragon carries these eggs for two months after which hatching occurs over a period of six days. They hatch as miniature, duplicate versions of the adults, just one inch (2.5 cm) long.

Habitat/range: The Weedy sea dragon is found in shallow coastal waters among seaweed, kelp forests and reefs of southern and western Australia, including the southern tip of Tasmania.

Status: Weedy seadragons are protected by the Australian government because populations are threatened by illegal collectors. The species is listed as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List.