Leafy sea dragons can be found in the wild off the coast of Southern and Western Australia. They live in shallow water near sea grass and kelp. The leafy parts of their body are not actually fins. They don’t help the sea dragon propel through the water but act as camouflage instead.
The color of a sea dragon depends on how shallow the water in which they live is. Leafy sea dragons who live in shallower water are green or yellow with pink bands and green leafy appendages. In deeper waters, leafy sea dragons have dark brown or burgundy coloration.
Sea dragons live solitary lives. They only spend time together when pairing up to breed. From the moment they hatch, leafy sea dragons are independent. Just like their close relatives, seahorses, sea dragon fathers are the ones who carry the eggs and are responsible for ensuring that the babies hatch. The young sea dragons are able to live off the nutrients of their yolk for a few days while they learn how to find food. To begin with, all young sea dragons are silver and develop their adult coloration later.
Food for leafy sea dragons is usually small crustaceans, such as shrimp, as well as small fish and plankton. They suck up their food through their snout. In one day, one leafy sea dragon may eat thousands of shrimp.
Leafy sea dragons actually have rigid skin, meaning that they can’t swim as easily as other fish. Instead, leafy sea dragons move through the water by rapidly flapping their small fins and changing the amount of air they hold in their swim bladders, which gives them vertical mobility. It is this limited mobility that makes their camouflage so essential.
Until recently, leafy sea dragons were listed as near threatened. Habitat destruction is one of the biggest threats that sea dragons have to contend with. Not all of the destruction is man-made, though. Storms and rough seas can also cause loss of habitat. It isn’t exactly known how old leafy sea dragons can live to be but the best estimates give them a seven to ten year lifespan in the wild.
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