The Georgia Aquarium recently introduced three Sea Dragon babies to its display in the Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery. The Georgia Aquarium is the third facility in the United States to successfully hatch Weedy Sea Dragons. An interesting fact about the Weedy Sea Dragon is that it is the male of the species that “gives birth.” The female lays up to 250 to 300 eggs onto the soft underside of the male's tail. The eggs are embedded into the skin in cup-like structures that harden and form around each egg to hold and protect them during brooding. After about two months, the bright pink eggs hatch into miniature juveniles, which settle into the vegetation.
Dad is protecting his little ones [below]
Photo credits: Georgia Aquarium
After the babies were born they were transferred into a special off-exhibit holding system to keep them safe from adult dragons and allow the aquarists to provide them with special food items such as tiny mysid shrimp. They have since grown to approximately ½ adult size but are large enough to safely navigate in the exhibit and forage for food. Although they are smaller and less colorful, and have a much shorter snout, the juvenile Weedy sea dragon closely resembles the adult. The new babies are about 4-4.5 inches long and weighed less than an ounce at birth. They join the ten adult sea dragons within the habitat. The Weedy sea dragon is listed as “endangered” on the IUCN Red List and is a protected species in its indigenous western Australia and Tasmania. With their leaf-like fins and frilly appendages, the Weedy sea dragon camouflages itself perfectly among seaweed and sea grass beds.