For the first time, a ruby seadragon has been observed in its natural habitat. The video of the animal, also known as Phyllopteryx Dewyse, was taken by researchers at Scripps Oceanography and the Western Australian Museum in the Recherche Archipelago.
The species was first described in 2015. Initially, the species was not considered to be another species of seadragon. It has been found that the seadragon’s habitat is different from the algal reefs housed by its relatives. “Until recently, no one had ever suspected one-third of species of seadragon existed,” lead researcher Greg Rouse of Scripps Oceanography pointed out. “This discovery was made thanks to the great benefit of museum collections.”
Unlike the ruby seadragon, its relatives, the common and leafy seadragon live in a shallower depth, at around three to 25 meters. Moreover, the ruby seadragon does not have leaves on its body for camouflage as utilized by its relatives and instead, it uses its red color to camouflage it in the depths it resides.
“It was really quite an amazing moment when we discovered that the ruby seadragon lacks appendages,” said research team member, Josefin Stiller, a graduate student of Scripps. “It never occurred to me that a seadragon could lack appendages because they are characterized by their beautiful camouflage leaves.”
Gizmodo Australia also stated that the ruby seadragon has a tail that it uses a tail to grasp onto objects and prevent it from being thrown away by the water, a finding that surprised the researchers. In comparison, the common and leafy seadragons do not have this feat as they cannot bend their tails.
This would mean that there must be a research to determine how their tails evolved. More studies should also explain if the common and leafy seadragons lost their tail in time or if the ruby seadragon reacquired it. “There are so many discoveries still awaiting us. Western Australia has such a diverse range of habitats,” said researcher Nerida Wilson of the Western Australian Museum. And each one is deserving of attention.”