Inside the Manta Aquarium at SeaWorld, Orlando, an exciting birth has taken place! A male (yes male!) weedy sea dragon has hatched his first few babies, the first time at SeaWorld, with more hatching over the next few weeks.
A close relative of both the sea horse and the leafy sea dragon (both also on display at the Manta Aquarium), the weedy sea dragon female lays around 100 eggs. She deposits them onto the “brood sac” on the underside of the male’s tail. He then fertilizes the eggs on this spongy patch and provides oxygen through tiny cups. Incubation lasts until they are at full term which can be from five to nine weeks.
Baby weedy sea dragons, scientific name Phyllopteryx taeniolatus, are instantly independent at birth and will feed on their yolk sac and tiny zooplankton in the water for nourishment. When they are old enough they will hunt for mysid shrimps. The sea dragons will take about a year to grow to full size.
Weedy sea dragons can be found naturally off the coast of Australia. Their numbers have drastically declined since the 1980s due to pollution runoff and being gathered by collectors of for use in alternative medicines.