Beautiful New Species of Weedy Sea Dragon Discovered

by | Mar 27, 2015 | Fish, Science, Seahorses | 0 comments

Photo by Josefin Stiller , Nerida G. Wilson , Greg W. Rouse. CC by 4.0.

Photo by Josefin Stiller , Nerida G. Wilson , Greg W. Rouse. CC by 4.0.

Syngnathid fish fans have a new species to fawn over, according to a recent article in Scientific American Magazine. Until now, only two species of seadragon were known, the leafy and weedy seadragons. No new seadragon species has been discovered in 150 years. This newest addition to the small group, the aptly-named ruby seadragon, was uncovered by a trawler during a routine biodiversity survey by the University of Western Australia’s Marine Futures project in 2007. It was a happy surprise indeed.

It is not only a very strange and attractive animal, but is decidedly quite different in appearance and habit than its better-known relatives. For one, while it has the characteristically spiny body form, it lacks the weedy of leafy appendages of the other seadragons. Most notably, it is apparently a deepwater fish; this specimen was pulled from a deep, sandy-bottom reef of about 51 meters (167 feet). The comparatively great depth at which they occur explains the rich, reddish coloration, as red is extremely difficult to perceive at this depth, effectively camouflaging the fish. Of course, its home in an area less accessible to scientists helps to explain why it has remained undetected for so long.

Not that we have not seen it before; three were already held in Australian museum collections for decades, shockingly mislabeled as weedies. It was only more recently, after genetic analysis, that researchers could confirm the discovery of a new species–nearly as distantly related to the other weedy as it is to to the leafy. This animal, now called Phyllopteryx dewysea, will likely be the subject of intense hankering by many public and private seahorse aficionados.

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