Red seadragon caught on camera in the wild for first time
Saturday, January 14, 2017, 2:54 PM - Scientists have caught an in-the-wild glimpse of a rare and only recently described species of seadragon.
Seadragons, cousins to the better-known seahorses, previously were thought to only comprise two species, the leafy and common seadragon, found in the waters of Australia. That changed in 2015, when some previously preserved specimens were found to be their own species. Subsequently dubbed the red seadragon, the search was on to find examples of them living in the wild.
Given how poorly known the species was, researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the Western Australian Museum deduced that ruby seadragons might dwell below the usual range of SCUBA enthusiasts.
After several days of searching with a mini-remotely operated vehicle in waters over 50-meters (164-feet) deep, the researchers got what they came for—the first-ever field sightings of the fish near Western Australia’s Recherche Archipelago. As they observed two Ruby Seadragons on video for nearly 30 minutes, the scientists uncovered new details about their anatomy, habitat, and behavior.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records. Among other things, the paper reports that, unlike the other known seadragon species, red seadragons have prehensile tails, and lack the kind of leaf-like appendages that other seadragons use to camouflage themselves in sea grass.
The researchers say the species should be declared protected "as soon as practicable."
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