Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon


      This dragon is one of the most incredibly camouflaged animals of the sea. The leafy sea dragon, Phycodurus eques, or commonly called Glauert’s sea dragon, is in the same family as sea horses and pipefishes. They aren’t too terribly large, only growing to about 14 inches. The leafy sea dragons are only found in certain areas. They are all over southern Australia, but are known to be from Geraldton in Western Australia, which is where its name comes from, to the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria. They tend to live in shallower rocky reefs, seaweed beds, sea grass meadows, and structures primarily composed of seaweeds, hence, their intricate camouflage. Their bodies are covered with many leaf-like appendages.

These leaf-like appendages are extremely realistic. In fact, they are so realistic that many animals and organisms swarm to it for shelter and food because it just looks so real. Their many realistic seaweed-like appendages are not used in propulsion for swimming. They are only used as a camouflage mechanism and thus, cause this sea dragon to be quite difficult to find in its natural habitat. The leafy sea dragon also comes in a variety of colors which all are dependent upon location, diet, and age. They can range anywhere from yellowish-brown to green, or any typical algae coloration.  In addition, another defense mechanism is that they are covered in jointed plates instead of your typical scale. They also have sharp spines that line their bodies. With the combination of the intense camouflage, plates, and spines, they do an outstanding job at avoiding predation. In fact, they may not even have any serious type of natural predator. Their only downfall is that they are slow movers, so they heavily rely on their camouflage as a primary key defense mechanism against predators. Their little dorsal and pectoral fins do not provide strong swimming; rather they cause the leafy sea dragon to swim awkwardly. Thus, this sea dragon kind of bounces, tumbles, and drifts along in the water. These fins are also transparent meaning their predators cannot see them. Again, this is just another thing that allows these sea dragons to be so well camouflaged. Even the way the swim is seaweed-like!  Now that’s incog- NEATO!!



http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/sea-dragon/

5 comments:

  1. That is so cool! The camouflage would definitely be an advantage because they are such slow swimmers. What type of animals eat this unique creature? The predators would have to adapt to see the camouflage; so it would be interesting to see the change in predators over time.

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  2. That's a very good point and it would be rather interesting. I did read, however, that right now, there are very few known predators (if any) of this sea dragon simply because with the combination of the extreme camouflage, hard plate, and spines, it makes for one pretty invincible creature of the sea.

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  3. This is a great post. It made me wonder how many things have adapted for survival and protection, and lead me to question how many things in the oceans I have traveled too, how many organisms have been present but I would not know due to camouflage and other adaptions. Crazy what some animals can do, I wish we could adapt like this, hah.

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  4. This is a really 'neat' post. These little guys sure do seem nearly invincible due to their hard plates and spines. It's probably a good idea they have so much protection, along with camouflage for the fact they are poor swimmers. However, I think the camouflage seems a bit of a down fall if there are animals that try to feed on them, as you mentioned earlier in the post.

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  5. I remember seeing these at the Pittsburgh Zoo for the first time. They blended in with their habitat so well that I would only spot a few. They're absolutely fascinating creatures!

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