Common Seadragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus (Lacepède 1804)


Other Names: Common Sea Dragon, Common Sea-dragon, Lucas' Sea-dragon, Weedy Sea Dragon, Weedy Seadragon, Weedy Sea-dragon

A Common Seadragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus, at Flinders, Western Port, Victoria. Source: Sascha Schultz. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

Summary:

The large and colourful Common Seadragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus, occurs only in the southern half of Australia. This popular species has a long tubular snout and simple leaf-like appendages on the body that resemble kelp fronds. Although females are deeper-bodied than males, it is the males that brood the developing eggs on the underside of their tail.

The Common Seadragon is the Marine State Emblem of Victoria.

The ARKive project has fantastic images and video footage of Common Seadragons feeding and swimming through their habitat, as well as males carrying eggs.

Stunning video footage of Common Seadragons from the BBC Life series

Video of courtship behaviour of Common Seagragons

Common Seadragons feeding at Flinders Pier, Western Port, Victoria

Video of an Australian Fur Seal playing with a Draughtboard shark and a Common Seadragon at Flinders Pier, Western Port, Victoria.

Common Seadragons (aka Weedy Sea Dragons) in Jervis Bay, New South Wales.

Common Seadragons in their natural habitat.

Take a look at Monterey Bay Aquarium's youtube clip  "Daddy" Weedy Sea Dragon has Babies!

Video of a Common Seadragon in New South Wales.


Cite this page as:

Dianne J. Bray, 2011, Common Seadragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus, in Fishes of Australia, accessed 27 May 2016, http://www.fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3127

Common Seadragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus (Lacepède 1804)

More Info


Distribution

Endemic to temperate coastal waters of southern Australia, from about Newcastle (New South Wales) south to Actaeon Island (Tasmania) and across southern Australia to about Geraldton (Western Australia).

Common seadragons inhabit shallow estuaries to deeper offshore reefs, living seagrass beds and on rocky reefs covered in macroalgae, especially kelp beds, in depths of 1-50 m. Individuals usually remain within a broad home range.

Features

Dorsal fin 27-34; Anal fin 4-5; Pectoral fin 20-23; Trunk rings 17; Tail rings 31-37; Subdorsal rings 1.75-0.25 + 5.00-7.00 = 6.00-8.00.

Body slender and elongate, slightly contorted, trunk deep in adults, body posterior to dorsal fin much shorter than that before dorsal fin; body encased in ring like bony plates, trunk with bilaterally paired, enlarged, flattened spines on dorsum of 11th ring, ventral margins of eighth or ninth rings, and small spine on dorsum of 17th; superior ridges of tail with about five, paired or unilateal, flat spines; flat, ovate, dermal flaps typically present on each enlarged head and body spine.

Superior trunk ridge (STR) and Superior tail ridge (STAR) discontinuous near rear of dorsal fin base; Inferior trunk ridge (ITR) and Inferior tail ridge (ITAR) discontinuous; Lateral trunk ridge (LTR)confluent with Lateral tail ridge (LTAR) and STAR; eggs brooded by males on open undersurface of tail just behind anal fin; tail prehensile. 

Head directed at slight angle to line of body; snout long (59-73% HL), slender (snout depth 7-14% snout length), compressed, with prominent recurved lateral spine; median dorsal snout ridge inconspicuous; opercles finely striate.  Scales and lateral line absent.

Single dorsal fin centrally on back, with moderately elongate base; anal fin very small, below front half of dorsal fin; caudal fin absent; pectoral fins small.

Sexually dimorphic - females have a deeper trunk compared with the males.

Size

To 45cm.

Colour

Variable in colour - usually reddish-orange to purplish with fine yellow spots on head and body, especially dorsally, and bluish bars on sides of trunk and base of tail; tail often with three or four dark bars; oval-shaped dermal flaps variably dark throughout, with a pale median blotch or with narrow pale edges.

Feeding

Carnivore - feeds on a range of tiny invertebrates, especially crustaceans such as mysids that are sucked in through the tubular snout. Seadragons are ambush predators, relying on camouflage and stealth to approach their unsuspecting prey.

Biology

Common Seadragons breed from June to January, with some males having two broods per season. Males brood and nourish up to 250 developing eggs in a specialised area on the underside of the tail. The gestation period is 30-38 days. Although some of the young mature after a year, most do not breed until their second summer.

Fisheries

Although Common Seadragons are of interest to the aquarium industry, they are difficult to breed in captivity and are difficult to raise.

Conservation

  • EPBC Act 1999 : Listed Marine Species
  • IUCN Red List : Near Threatened

    Protected Species in NSW under Fisheries Management Act 1994.

    The Tasmanian Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 prohibits the take of all syngnathids in Tasmania (by non-permit holders).

    Victorian Fisheries Act 1995: Protected Aquatic Biota.

  • Remarks

    A second species in the genus, the Ruby Seadragon, Phyllopteryx dewysea, was recently described from specimens collected off south-west Western Australia.

    Species Citation

    Syngnatus (sic) taeniolatus Lacepède, 1804, Ann. Mus. Hist. Nat. Paris 4: 211, pl. 58, fig. 3. Type locality: New Holland.

    Author

    Dianne J. Bray

    Resources

    Australian Faunal Directory

    Common Seadragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus (Lacepède 1804)

    References


    Castelnau, F.L. de 1872. Contribution to the ichthyology of Australia. 2. Note on some South Australian fishes. Proceedings of the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria 1: 243-248

    Coleman, N. 1980. Australian Sea Fishes South of 30ºS. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 309 pp.

    Connolly, R. 2006. Phyllopteryx taeniolatus. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 02 February 2012.

    Dawson, C.E. 1985. Indo-Pacific Pipefishes (Red Sea to the Americas). Ocean Springs (Mississippi) : Gulf Coast Research Laboratory 230 pp. 293 figs pl. 1.

    Dawson, C.E. 1994. Family Syngnathidae. pp. 440-475 figs 391-426 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.

    Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Checklist of the fishes of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 63: 9-50

    Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp.

    Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

    Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to sea fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

    Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Seahorses, Pipefishes and Their Relatives. Chorleywood, UK : TMC Publishing 240 pp.

    Kuiter, R.H. 2008. Syngnathidae. pp. 448-479 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

    Kuiter, R.H. 2009. Seahorses and their relatives. Seaford, Australia : Aquatic Photographics pp. 331.

    Lacepède, B.G. 1804. Mémoire sur plusieurs animaux de la Nouvelle Hollande dont la description n'a pas encore été publiée. Annales du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. Paris 4: 184-211 pls 55-58

    McCoy, F. 1882. Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria. Decade 7. Melbourne : George Robertson Vol. 1 1-37 pls 61-70.

    Munro, I.S.R. 1961. Handbook of Australian fishes. Nos 1–42. Australian Fisheries Newsletter 15-17, 19, 20: 1-172 [published as separates 1956-1961]

    Paxton, J.R., Gates, J.E., Hoese, D.F. & Bray, D.J. 2006. Syngnathidae. pp. 810-846 in Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds). Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35 Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Parts 1-3 2178 pp.

    Perry, G. 1810. Ichthyology. In, Arcana; or The Museum of Natural History. 2 unnumbered pages. 1 unnumbered plate. [1 May 1810]

    Pognoski, J.J., Pollard, D.A. & Paxton, J.R. 2002. Conservation Overview and Action Plan for Australian Threatened and Potentially Threatened Marine and Estuarine Fishes. Canberra : Environment Australia 375 pp.

    Richardson, J. 1843. Report on the present state of the ichthyology of New Zealand. Report of the 12th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science 1842: 12-30

    Sanchez-Camara, J. & Booth, D. 2004. Movement, home range and site fidelity of the weedy seadragon Phyllopteryx taeniolatus (Teleostei: Syngnathidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 70: 31-41.

    Sánchez-Camara J, Booth DJ, Murdoch J, Watts D, Turon X. 2006. Abundance, habitat use and behaviour of the weedy seadragon Phyllopteryx taeniolatus (Teleostei: Syngnathidae) around Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 137: 737-745.

    Sanchez-Camara, J., D.J. Booth & X. Turon. 2005. Reproductive cycle and growth of Phyllopteryx taeniolatus. Journal of Fish Biology 67: 133-148.

    Sanchez-Camara, J., Martin-Smith, K., Booth, D.J., Fritschi, J. & Turon, X. 2011. Demographics and vulnerability of a unique Australian fish, the weedy seadragon Phyllopteryx taeniolatus. Marine Ecology Progress Series 422: 253-264.

    Shaw, G. 1804. General Zoology or systematic natural history. Fishes. London : G. Kearsley Vol. 5 1-463 pls 1 (or 93)-182.

    Stiller J, Wilson NG, Rouse GW. 2015 A spectacular new species of seadragon (Syngnathidae). Royal Society open science 2: 140458. Open access at http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.140458

    Whitley, G.P. 1931. Studies in Ichthyology No. 4. Records of the Australian Museum 18(3): 96-133 figs 1-2 pls 11-16

    Quick Facts


    CAAB Code:37282002

    Biology:Males brood eggs

    Conservation:EPBC Act Marine Listed; IUCN Near Threatened

    Depth:1-50 metres

    Habitat:Reef, seagrass beds, macroalgae

    Max Size:45 cm TL

    Native:Endemic

    Species Maps

    CAAB distribution map