A First-Class Flight for Our Weedy Seadragons

Last month we sent some weedy seadragons on a most excellent adventure, flying from Monterey to the Birch Aquarium in San Diego on a private plane.  Apparently the weedies liked the accommodations, because just a few weeks later, one of the 10 seadragons hatched babies from the eggs it was carrying on its tail!

To ensure delicate handling and limit the amount of car travel required for the animals, the seadragons were carefully packed in coolers before the flight.

“Transporting adult seadragons is not something that happens very often,” said Jonelle Verdugo, our associate curator of fish and invertebrates. “We were a bit concerned about how well they would handle the move from Monterey to Birch. When the male weedy was discovered with eggs on its tail, that elevated our worry to a new level.”

If the male seadragon was stressed, he might have dropped the eggs. The experts at both aquariums did everything possible to reduce stress that might be caused by the trip to San Diego.

“Being able to fly the seadragon in a private plane significantly reduced the amount of time it took to get him from his old home to his new home,” Jonelle added.

Fortunately, “The babies are doing great!” said Birch Aquarium husbandry expert Leslee Matsushige. “They’re eating and getting bigger every day,”

The donated seadragons were part of our temporary exhibit, “The Secret Lives of Seahorses,” which closed September 3 to make room for our next amazing exhibit focusing on octopuses, cuttlefishes and their kin. (It opens April 12, 2014.) Learn more about “Tentacles”.

The weedy seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) uses leaf-like appendages as camouflage to hide from predators. This protection works so well that adult seadragons have no natural predators. However, they are still threatened by habitat destruction. They live in coastal waters and feed on small crustaceans and zooplankton. Like seahorses, seadragon males are the fertilized eggs, which remain under their tails for about two months before the young hatch.