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

World of Animals - - What’s Inside... -

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.

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