Bizarre: Leafy seadragon
Leafy seadragons don’t have speed on their side, so they’ve turned to camouflage and body armour to keep them safe in Australia’s perilous waters
Meet the aquatic hoover that lives in disguise
They hoover up their food
Leafy seadragons can only eat small creatures because they have no teeth and suck their prey up through their long snouts. They lack stomachs and cannot store food so have to eat slowly and frequently.
They’re constantly in disguise
Seadragons vary in colour depending on where they live and what they eat, but they all share the lobes of skin that grow all over their bodies and give them their name. The extra skin hides the seadragons from predators by disguising them as seaweed; it even wafts convincingly when they swim.
They’re not in any hurry
The leafy seadragon is a poor swimmer; it can steer with the fins on the sides of its head but its mobility is limited. Seadragons have been known to stay in one spot for several days and can only cover about 150 metres (492.1 feet) per hour when they do decide to move.
Males do most of the parenting
Usually solitary, ‘leafies’ find mates
during breeding season. Females transfer around 250 pink eggs into spongy brood patches on the males’
tails to be fertilised, and fathers carry the eggs until they hatch six
weeks later. The young are small and have to look after themselves, so very few make it to adulthood.
They’re not as soft as they seem
They might look delicate, but leafy seadragons are covered in armour. Instead of scales, hard, jointed plates protect their bodies. Should a predator see through the disguise and try to eat a seadragon, it will be met with sharp
spines all down the fish’s back.