Because of its similar appearance, the weedy seadragon is often mistaken for its close relative, the leafy seadragon, but the leafy seadragon is more rare and has more leaf-like appendages.
Weedy seadragons have become a “flagship” species of the southern Australian coast and are documented in Dragon Search, a database of seadragon sightings that monitors local water quality.
Over the last 20 years, losses of giant kelp has increased water temperatures and reduced macroalgae, potentially adversely affecting weedy seadragons.
The weedy seadragon was selected as the Australian State of Victoria’s marine faunal emblem in 2002.
The weedy seadragon is exploited for the aquarium trade at low levels that are not likely of conservation concern.
Young weedy seadragons are born independent and receive no parental care after they are hatched and released into the external environment.
The weedy seadragon is primarily threatened by habitat degradation and loss due to pollution and sedimentation, especially in urban areas.
Like all syngnathids, the weedy seadragon is protected by the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999 and occur in several protected areas, but there are no specific conservation measures in place for the species.
Although weedy seadragons lay 120-250 eggs, only 60-120 offspring will survive, while the others will fall prey to sea anemones.
There have been no range-wide population estimates made for the weedy seadragon and further research and monitoring are needed to determine population size and trends.
Although the weedy seadragon’s reproduction is well documented, it’s not understood what triggers the species to reproduce and mating in captivity is rare.
Unlike other syngnathids, the weedy seadragon is not a victim of bycatch or a target of trade in traditional Chinese medicine.
Seahorses, pipefish, and seadragons, including the weedy seadragon, are the only species in which the male carries the developing eggs.
Because weedy seadragons are not good swimmers, they are slow-moving and drift in the water and rely on their primary defense mechanism of camouflage to protect them from predation.
Weedy seadragons have very specific habitat requirements; the water must be 12-23°C and 8-50 m. deep, though most are found 8-12 meters deep.
Invasive species, such as urchins, that degrade kelp habitat may be contributing to declines in weedy seadragons.
The weedy seadragon usually lives for 6 years, but exhibits variable growth and survival rates and experiences increased longevity, exceeding 10 years, at higher latitudes.
The peaceful weedy seadragon does not negatively affect humans and, in fact, promotes tourism.
Male weedy seadragons carry the eggs externally below their tail and incubate them for up to 2 months before 120-250 offspring hatch.
Weedy seadragons are generally solitary, but pairing and groupings of 20-40 have been observed in the Sydney area and in southern New South Wales.
Weedy sea dragons are sexually dimorphic, as males have narrower bodies and are darker than females.
The weedy seadragon is named for its leafy appendages that provide camouflage and protection in its habitat, allowing it to resemble floating seaweed.
Do you think you know the weedy seadragon? Test your knowledge of weedy seadragon FaunaFacts with this trivia quiz!
Weedy seadragons breed between July-January, usually in their second year when fully grown, but breed later, October-March, in Tasmanian waters.
Weedy seadragons are not good swimmers because their bodies are surrounded by protective dermal plates and they lack a caudal fin.
The weedy seadragon is listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List because a large portion of its range occurs in less populated areas that are not at risk.
The weedy seadragon was previously the only member of its genus until the discovery of its closest relative, the ruby seadragon, in 2015.
Although they are similar to seahorses, weedy seadragons do not have prehensile, gripping tails and instead use them for steering.
Weedy seadragons have no teeth, but instead feed by way of suction with a pipe-like terminal mouth and an intricate system of bones pulled by muscles.
The weedy seadragon is endemic to the Australian waters of the Eastern Indian Ocean and the South Western Pacific Ocean and can be found along much of the southern Australian coastline.
The weedy seadragon is a carnivore and feeds on mysids, carid shrimps, prawns of the genus Lucifer, and other small crustaceans.
The weedy seadragon is a marine neritic animal that inhabits rocky reefs, seaweed beds, sea grass meadows, kelp gardens, and sandy areas.