Scientists have just discovered a new species of seadragon, the first in 150 years, dubbed the Ruby Red seadragon. The new and fascinating discovery of the Ruby Red seadragon was described in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
Up until the discovery, scientists believed that there were only two species of seadragons in the world: the leafy seadragon and the weedy seadragon. Seadragons are related to pipefish and seahorses and can only be found off the coast of southern Australia. Seadragons have very thin and long snouts, slim trunks covered in bony rings and very thin tails that cannot be used for gripping. They float in the water and drift in the current like seaweed and use their small dorsal and pectoral fins to steer and propel them. They eat sea lice and tiny crustaceans. Not much more is known about these tiny creatures.
The discovery of the Ruby Red seadragon was made by the scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. They were analyzing museums tissue samples from 2007 when they noticed that the DNA sequence of one particular seadragon did not match the DNA of other seadragons. When the researched asked for the specimen whose DNA they were analyzing, they were shocked to see that the sea dragon in front of them was an undocumented species of seadragon.
Phyllopteryx dewysea, the Ruby Red seadragon, looks different from the leafy and weedy seadragons, who are yellow, brown and even purple. They are ruby red and scientists believe that the reason behind this is that it lives in deeper waters where they can use their color as camouflage.
Greg Rouse, from the Scripps Oceanography and one of the authors of the study, said in a press release that humans are in a golden age of taxonomy and that powerful DNA tools are helping scientists discover new species.
Unfortunately, seadragons’ numbers have been declining, which prompted the Australian government is making efforts to protect the seadragons.
The seadragons in general are a very newly discovered species of fish and efforts need to be made in order for this fragile creature to continue to live in the Australian waters.
Image Source: Discovery
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