Research by marine biologists from Wageningen University has shown that feeding on zooplankton by scleractinian corals has been greatly underestimated.
|Written by Tim Wijgerde|
Phycodurus eques (Günther, 1865)
The leafy sea dragon, Phycodurus eques, is a marine fish related to the sea horse. It is the only member of the genus Phycodurus. These creatures are found around southern and western Australia. The name is derived from the animal's appearance, with long leaf-like protrusions emanating from all over the body. These protrusions are not used for propulsion, they serve only as camouflage. The leafy sea dragon propels itself by means of a pectoral fin on the ridge of its neck and a dorsal fin on its back, closer to the tail end. They are slightly larger than most sea horses, growing to about 30 cm in length. They feed on plankton and small crustaceans.
Leafy sea dragons are subject to many threats, both natural and man-made. They are vulnerable when first born, and are slow swimmers, reducing their chance of escape from a predator. Sea dragons are often washed ashore after storms, as unlike their relative the sea horse, sea dragons cannot curl their tail and hold onto seagrass to stay safe. They are caught by collectors, and used in alternative medicine. They have become endangered through pollution, industrial runoff and overcollection. In response to these dangers they have been officially protected by the Federal Government of Australia.