Marine Emblem: Common Seadragon

Common SeadragonThe Common Seadragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus, is a member of the Syngnathidae family which includes seahorses, pipehorses and pipefish. It is found only in southern Australian waters, living in coastal waters from Newcastle (NSW) to Tasmania and Geraldton (WA) with its range centred around Victoria. The Common Seadragon (formerly Weedy Seadragon) was selected as Victoria's official marine faunal emblem by public nomination in 2002.

Common Seadragons are beautifully coloured, dainty, timid animals that swim slowly and gracefully. They can grow up to 46cm in length.

Habitat

Forests of brown kelp and seagrass meadows (mainly Amphibolus sp.) are vital habitat for the survival of Common Seadragons in shallow waters. In deeper waters they prefer to live amongst offshore reefs containing sponge gardens and brown kelp.

Long leaf-shaped flaps of skin protrude from stalk-like bony projections at intervals along the top and bottom of the body. This enables seadragons to perfectly camouflage within their habitat and be easily overlooked.

Life Cycle

Breeding occurs annually, usually in late Spring when the seadragons pair up. Like their pipefish and seahorse relatives, the male seadragon broods the eggs.

With Common Seadragons, up to 300 eggs can be laid by the female underneath the male's tail where they are brooded. The eggs are bright pink when fresh and darken as they develop. They hatch, after two months, as 25mm long miniature versions of the adults, but grow quickly to 7cm within about three weeks. By four months they are about one quarter of the length of an adult and after two years have reached their maximum size.

Common Seadragons can probably live up to ten years in the wild.

Diet

Diet consists mainly of small crustaceans. Young feed almost exclusively on mysid shrimp. Adults will feed on mysids, other small shrimp and crawling crustaceans, including squat lobsters.

Using its long thin tubular snout the Common Seadragon captures food by a powerful suction action, drawing water and prey rapidly into its mouth. Special muscles in the snout can widen it to capture different sizes of food.

Conservation Status

The Common Seadragon, as part of the Syngnathidae family, is fully protected as 'Protected Aquatic Biota' under the Victorian Fisheries Act 1995. Where can Victorians experience the world of Common Seadragons? In the wild, if you look carefully, you may be rewarded with a view of this amazing creature hovering around piers near clumps of brown kelp, along the edges of sea grass beds and in deeper water amongst sponges and brown kelp forests on offshore reefs.

Snorkellers and divers can observe Common Seadragons in many of the Marine National Parks and Marine Sanctuaries situated along Victoria's coast, near Portland, Point Addis, Queenscliff, Barwon Heads, Portsea, Rye, Flinders, Wilsons Promontory and Gippsland. 

Further information

Find out further information on the Common Seadragon.

High resolution image

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Last updated on Monday, 03 April 2017