The leafy sea dragon, Phycodurus eques, is a marine fish in the family Syngnathidae, which also includes the seahorses. It is the only member of the genus Phycodurus. It is found along the southern and western coasts of Australia. The name is derived from the appearance, with long leaf-like protrusions coming from all over the body. These protrusions are not used for propulsion; they serve only ascamouflage. The leafy sea dragon propels itself by means of a pectoral fin on the ridge of its neck and a dorsal fin on its back closer to the tail end. These small fins are almost completely transparent and difficult to see as they undulate minutely to move the creature sedately through the water, completing the illusion of floating seaweed. Much like the seahorse, the leafy sea dragon’s name is derived from its resemblance to another creature (in this case, a mythical creature). While not large, they are slightly larger than most sea horses, growing to about 20-24 cm (8-10 in). They feed on plankton and small crustaceans. The lobes of skin that grow on the leafy sea dragon provide camouflage, giving it the appearance of seaweed. It is able to maintain the illusion when swimming, appearing to move through the water like a piece of floating seaweed. It can also change colour to blend in, but this ability depends on the sea dragon’s diet, age, location, and stress level. The creature has a long, pipe-like snout that it uses to feed. It primarily eats crustaceans including plankton and mysids, but its diet also includes shrimp and small fish. It catches prey with the aid of its camouflage. Leafy sea dragons oddly enough do not have teeth, which is rare amongst animals that eat small fish and shrimp. The leafy sea dragon is related to the pipefish and belongs to the family Syngnathidae, along with the seahorse. It differs from the seahorse in appearance, form of locomotion, and its inability to coil or grasp things with its tail. A related species is the weedy sea dragon, which is multi-coloured and grows weed-like fins but is smaller than the leafy sea dragon. In the November 2006 issue ofNational Geographic, marine biologist Greg Rouse was reported as investigating the DNA variation of the two sea dragon species across their ranges.
(From Wikipedia, July 9th, 2010)
Leafy seadragons are exquisitely camouflaged fish. Belonging to the same family as seahorses and pipefish (Syngnathidae), they resemble these with their elongated snout and bony-plated body (2). Leafy seadragons are yellowish-brown to green in colour, although they may vary depending on their age, diet or location (2). The pectoral fins are located on the neck, and a dorsal fin runs along the seadragon’s back (3). As their common name suggests, there are a number of leaf-like appendages along the body, which help to make these fish resemble the seaweed of their habitat. The eyes are located above the elongated snout and there are a number of defensive spines along the sides of the body (2) Phyllopteryx eques moves very slowly through the water and mimics seaweed, which makes it a master at camouflage. Those predators not fooled by its blending capabilities are often surprised by its bony exterior and long, sharp spines (Zahl 1978). The species tends to swim alone or in pairs (Groves 1998). (From EOL via Animal Diversity Web)