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New species of sea dragon is discovered

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Last week we reported on John Nightingale's search for sea dragons in South Australia. This week he discovered an interesting update…

The trouble with quests, as any hobbit will tell you, is that no sooner have you completed the task and returned home than it turns out that you aren't finished after all. For the last 150 years, since they were first described, there have been just the two types of sea dragon. Then in 2015 scientists went and found a whole new species.

Looking into ways of protecting sea dragons, a researcher at the Western Australia Museum found a pregnant male specimen, carrying dozens of babies, that was ruby red in colour with pink vertical bars on each of its eighteen trunk segments. It had been caught off the remote Recherche Archipelago off Western Australia in 2007. It looked sufficiently different to warrant some careful DNA analysis. This showed that it was an entirely different species from the leafy and weedy sea dragons. It was named the Ruby Sea Dragon, Phyllopteryx dewysea.

Sea dragons are usually found at comparatively shallow depths but the new ruby dragon would appear to live at least 70m down. At that depth its deep red colour would make it very hard to see which might help to explain why it has never been identified before.

So it looks like if I want to go looking for dragons again I'd better get that tec diving course done!

See Johns story of his search for the sea dragon



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