The leafy sea dragon has several leaf-shaped appendages along its body that make it look like algae. This fish, related to seahorses, exists only in southern Australia and is subject to strict protective measures by the Australian authorities.
For Núria Baylina, Curator and Director of Conservation of the Oceanarium “to make this endemic species of Australia, and therefore inaccessible to the eyes of the common citizen, known, promotes the awareness of visitors to marine biodiversity and the fragility of ecosystems”. “Although classified as ‘of little concern’ on the International Union for Conservation Red List of Threatened Species, existing data point to a decline in populations of this species mainly due to loss and degradation of costal habitats but also due to accidental fishing.”
The main threat to the leafy sea dragon is habitat degradation. It is a coastal species that lives near microalgae and marine grasslands. These habitats have affected by human activities and coastal development such as pollution and effluent discharges.
By receiving these species, the Lisbon Oceanarium will continue to deepen the scientific knowledge about this species, of which little is known, and to educate for the conservation of this group of animals with unique characteristics that make them especially vulnerable to human action.
The leafy sea dragon is the master of camouflage and swims undulating in shallow water, near seaweed banks such as kelp and seaweed. Its food is based on small prawns and for hunting it camouflages itself. Like its seahorse relatives, it is the male who carries and incubates the eggs.