Saturday, December 10, 2011

Creature Feature: Leafy Seadragon.

Hah. You thought we were out of weird creatures, didn't you? Nope. Nature never runs out of weirdness. That goes double for the ocean, where, in his city at R'yleh, dread Cthulhu waits dreaming. This creature is not that traumatizing, but it will make you scratch your head a little...if you can find it. MWAHAHA!

This was the best pic I could find that did NOT point the dragon out for you.

The leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques) is, as looks would suggest, related to seahorses and pipefish. It eats small crustaceans and plankton, usually while staying perfectly still. It is native only to the waters of Southern Australia, where it has a cult following. They have a leafy festival and the seadragon is their official mascot. The whole state loves leafies!

The leafy seadragon is, of course, best known for its insane camouflage. Those fleshy protrusions make it look a lot like seaweed. The photos online do not do this creature's camouflage justice; much of the time, it is a lot harder to pick one out in a bundle of sea plants than one would think. Mind, the camouflage comes with a hefty price: the 'leaves' serve absolutely no other purpose, making the leafy a slow-moving target when it's not in the plants.

From Animalpicturesarchive.

Everything in nature is out to get leafy seadragons. Collectors and practicioners of traditional medicine covet the leafies. They are very slow swimmers, making the babies easy game. Since the leafy's tail is not flexible in the least, they cannot grab onto anything, and many get washed ashore in storms. Pollution is killing off a lot of the sea plants sea dragons use to hide. In other words, this creature has an existence only slightly more credible than that of the panda.

For those of you wanting a pet dragon, good luck. It's possible to get leafy seadragons, but they are often quite expensive. There have been regulations on capturing leafies for ages. Captive stock must be confirmed before purchasing a leafy. Even then, specimens are fragile; only the Tennessee Aquarium has been able to breed them regularly. Better stick with Pokemon's Kingdra unless you have a good amount of cash to blow and a degree in marine biology. (Yes, I know, Kingdra is more like a seahorse in several aspects.)

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