#Sea #dragons attract visitors at #California #aquarium
A Southern California aquarium has built what is believed to be one of the #world 's largest #habitats for the surreal sea dragons, whose native populations off #Australia are threatened by pollution, warming oceans and the illegal pet and alternative #medicine trades.
The #Birch Aquarium at the #Scripps #Institution of #Oceanography at the #University of California #SanDiego hopes the exhibit, which opened this month, will lead to the leafy sea dragon, the lesser-known cousin of the seahorse, being bred for the first time in captivity. “It literally just looked like a piece of kelp,” said #StevenKowal , 25, who was visiting San Diego from #Greensboro , North Carolina, and took time to see the exhibit. “It was #crazy to me that it was, like, actually living and #swimming around, so that's cool. I've never seen anything like that.” That's a common reaction. “They look like something out of this world,” said Leslee Matsushige, the aquarium's associate curator, who noted the sea dragons' amazing ability to camouflage themselves. “When people see them move, you hear them say, ‘What? That's alive? Wow! That's crazy.'” #Scientists like #Matsushige #hope the #creatures ' magnetic power will prompt people to read signs next to the tanks that outline ways to protect them and what can be done to make oceans healthier, such as picking up trash and stopping pollutants from going down the drain.
Few aquariums have sea dragons. There are only two types of sea dragons, the leafy and the weedy, each representing its own genus. Both are found only in a small area of temperate waters off the southern and western coasts of Australia.
Little is known about them because their populations are so small and in remote areas.
So far, only the weedy sea dragon, a bony fish that resembles seaweed when floating, has been bred in captivity, and only a handful of times.
The Birch Aquarium's 18-foot-long (5.5-meter-long) tank has three leafy sea dragons — two males and one female — and 11 weedy sea dragons. - 36 minutes ago