Here's the first-ever video of the lovely ruby seadragon

A rare seadragon has been spotted in the wild for the first time, after researchers "discovered" the species in a museum only recently. For nearly 30 minutes, the vehicle followed two wild ruby seadragons - the first ever recorded. The dragon uses it to cling to objects and thus avoid being swept away when the water surges, as described in a paper published in Marine Biodiversity Records.

The surrounding area was what Rouse calls a "sponge garden", in contrast to the kelp-filled waters that leafy and common seadragons inhabit.

"It was really quite an wonderful moment", Josefin Stiller, a marine biologist with Scripps Oceanography and co-author of the new study, said in a statement.

The researchers from the University of Western Australia, the Western Australian Museum and Scripps Institution of Oceanography used a mini-remotely operated vehicle in waters more than 50 meters deep near the Recherche Archipelago off Esperance. The other two species use the appendages to camouflage themselves in seaweed and other sea-based vegetation.

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They were first identified as a species in 2015 based on DNA sequencing of just four dried out specimens that had washed ashore or been caught in trawling nets between 1919 and 2007.

Observations of the ruby seadragon in the wild confirmed that this third species differs from its brethren in some very important ways. For decades, scientists have known about two of them: the weedy and the leafy seadragon, fish covered in preposterous arrays of foliage-like appendages that allow them to blend into the kelp-covered seafloor.

There remains a lot to understand about the ruby seadragon, such as whether it is facing any threats, or how widespread its distribution is.

Researchers at Scripps Oceanography and the Western Australian Museum capture on video the first-ever field sighting of the newly discovered third species of seadragon.

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Like the common seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) and the leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques) the new Phyllopteryx dewysea was discovered around the seas of Australia.

The second surprise came when they saw that the Ruby Seadragon had a prehensile, or curled tail, similar to that of their seahorse and pipefish relatives, but unlike other seadragon species.

To determine if the fish truly lacked appendages, or if the museum specimens had lost them prior to or during the collection process, the researchers needed to observe them in the wild. "It never occurred to me that a seadragon could lack appendages because they are characterized by their handsome camouflage leaves".

The new images showed the seadragon's intense red colour and revealed its habitat is very different from the algal reefs occupied by its relatives. Rouse added that its red color allows it to appear inconspicuous; in the deep waters where it lives, red light can not penetrate and thus they appear dark.

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Ms Stiller said the research shows there are so many discoveries still to be made in southern Australia.


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