A rare sighting has researchers in a tizzy. Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have recorded the first-ever sighting of the third species of seadragon, dubbed the Ruby Seadragon, in Western Australia.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography partnered with the Western Australian Museum and launched a scientific expedition off the coast of Western Australia to find Ruby Seadragons in the wild.
Until the creature's first appearance, researchers were studying its habitat, anatomy, behavior, and more. Their research has been published recently in the journal BioMed Central.
Other than the Ruby, there two more species of seadragons that can be seen in the wild — the Leafy Seadragons and Weedy (or Common) Seadragons.
Ruby's Maiden Appearance
The Ruby Seadragon (phyllopteryx dewysea) is a relative of the seahorse. It was known only through preserved specimens for nearly a century.
However, unlike the other two species of seadragons, which live in shallow waters, the Ruby dwells much deeper, beyond a depth of 50 meters. This is the reason why they never came into contact with humans, as this depth is not within the range of scuba drivers.
The first-ever contact with this rare species was made near Western Australia's Recherche Archipelago, when a tiny remotely operated vehicle recorded the first-ever field sighting of the rare creature at a depth of almost 164 feet.
Josefin Stiller a graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography of California, San Diego, shared that after this discovery, the researchers are looking forward to venturing into the remote areas of Western Australia. Why? As this is where the team found the Ruby Seadragon for the first time.
What The Discovery Revealed
The new discovery revealed a lot about the anatomy, behavior, and habitat of the Ruby Seadragon.
The most important discovery was that it lacks the leaf-like appendages characterized by the other two seadragons. The Ruby Seadragon has a curly tail that is able to grasp objects, which in turn stops these from getting swept away when there is a surge in water.
Additional observation will reveal whether the Ruby Seadragon acquired the ability or the Leafy and Weedy Seadragons lost the same.
The Ruby Seadragon measures up to 230 mm to 250 mm, whereas the other two species are relatively bigger with the Leafy Seadragon and the Weedy Seadragon being 350 mm and 460 mm, respectively.
The researchers predict that the Ruby Seadragon may have lost its appendages owing to evolution. Additional analysis will reveal whether this newly discovered species have evolved a curly tail independently from their pipefish ancestors or simply retained it while the other two seadragons lost it.
The study has been published in the Jan. 13 issue of the journal Marine Biodiversity Records.
Check out the video of the Ruby Seadragon in the wild.