First live records of the ruby seadragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea, Syngnathidae)

TitleFirst live records of the ruby seadragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea, Syngnathidae)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsRouse GW, Stiller J, Wilson NG
JournalMarine Biodiversity Records
Date Published2017/01
Type of Articlejournal article
ISBN Number1755-2672

Until recently, only two species of seadragon were known, Phycodurus eques (the leafy seadragon) and Phyllopteryx taeniolatus (the common seadragon), both from Australia. In 2015, we described a new species of seadragon, Phyllopteryx dewysea (the ruby seadragon). Although the leafy and common seadragons are well known and commonly seen in aquarium exhibits world-wide, the ruby seadragon was known only from four preserved specimens, leaving many aspects of its biology unknown. Based on specimen records, it was speculated that the ruby seadragon normally lives at depths beyond recreational SCUBA diving limits, which may also explain why it went undiscovered for so long. The ruby seadragon also bears a superficial resemblance to the common seadragon, with a number of specimens misidentified in museum collections. The only recent live-collected specimen was trawled from the Recherche Archipelago, a cluster of over 100 islands in Western Australia. We took a small remotely operated vehicle (miniROV) to this locality to obtain the first images of live ruby seadragons. We made observations on the seadragon habitat and behavior, including feeding. We also provide new key observations on their morphology, notably that they lack dermal appendages and have a prehensile tail. We recommend that the ruby seadragon be protected as soon as practicable.

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