Sea Dragons: Too Cute For Captivity? (Video)


Photo: Richard Ling (Wikipedia)
Weedy Sea Dragons: beautiful and maybe even magic
Could the aquarium trade threaten this amazing little guy? According to conservationists and scientists, the weedy sea dragon - a miniature, leafy-looking creature found only in the shallow waters off southern Australia - needs better protection from threats ranging from habitat loss to collectors, who prize its unique appearance. Read on to see more photos and a video of this captivating critter - straight out of nature's fairy tale book.

Video of mating weedy sea dragons: Narrated by the ever-awesome David Attenborough (BBC)

Related to the seahorse, the weedy sea dragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) is named for its undulating, weed-like protrusions on its body which acts as camouflage in its shallow-watered, seaweed-bed habitat. Growing up to 45 cm in length, the weedy sea dragon feeds on zooplankton and other small crustaceans. Like the seahorse, it's dad who carries the eggs under his tail after they are fertilized, for up to eight weeks.


Photo: lecates (Flickr)

Commercial collecting of weedy sea dragons is permitted only in the state of Western Australia, where 12 fishers are legally licensed to collect up to 30 live specimens. Government officials maintain that it's sustainable; however, it hasn't stopped organizations like the Cottesloe Coastcare Association from calling for improved protection for this enchanting species, which looks much like the already legally-protected leafy sea dragon.

It's understandable since efforts to mate weedy sea dragons in captivity have been less than successful. Scientists are still not sure which exact biological or environmental triggers are needed for reproduction. The survival rate of captive weedy sea dragons is about 60 percent, with small numbers of sea dragons found in a few aquariums in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

So what should be done? Though there's surely more humane and ecological ways to maintain an 'ocean-friendly' aquarium, with all the recent news of animals suffering and even killed en-masse in captivity, perhaps it may be a good idea to protect and leave the weedy sea dragon where it belongs - in the wild.

The West Australian
More on Endangered Animals
Chinese Zoo Accused of Letting 11 Rare Siberian Tigers Starve to Death
Do Zoos and Captive Breeding Really Help Endangered Species or Address Habitat Loss?
Create an Ocean-Friendly Aquarium

Follow me on Twitter: @kimberleymok

Tags: Australia | Conservation | Endangered Species | Oceans