South Australia’s leafy sea dragons – or ‘leafies’ as they’re known locally – are ready for a fling. A spring fling that lasts for days and leaves dad with about 250 eggs to hatch.
SA’s marine parks offer a chance to see these green and yellow-brown fragile creatures in the wild – truly a nature-based experience found nowhere else in the world.
Leafy sea dragons can be found off the coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula at Rapid Bay, the Bluff in Victor Harbor, and multiple spots on the Yorke Peninsula, as well as at Tumby Bay jetty on the Eyre Peninsula and at a bunch of spots off the coast of Kangaroo Island.
Leafies are renowned for their camouflage – and the untrained eye can easily miss them – so if it’s your first time looking for them consider taking a guided diving tour. Then watch in awe as you witness our state’s marine emblem in its natural environment.
See the dragon dance
October through to January is leafy sea dragon breeding season. Remember to be courteous around these unique creatures as they can be easily stressed. If you’re respectful you might be rewarded with seeing their amazing courting dance.
During mating season the leafy sea dragons do the mating swagger, swaying their colourful camouflage and weedy-like appendages with their mate. Then when the moment is right, mum passes over hundreds of tiny pink eggs for dad to fertilise and carry on his tail.
Dad then incubates the eggs for up to nine weeks. If you spot him with eggs while you’re diving, give him space – it’s a lot pressure raising children! Plus, only about 20 grow to maturity as they are so tiny and can easily be sucked up by predators – so let’s give these little guys a fighting chance.
If you spot leafies out in SA waters remember to follow the rules as they are a protected species in our waters. So always watch from afar and don’t put them in the jar – or you’ll be up for a hefty fine.
Don’t want to get your feet wet? Why not watchGavinthe leafy sea dragon on his cartoon adventure travelling along SA’s coastline instead (video below).
Main image: A male leafy sea dragon carrying eggs (image courtesy of Carl Charter Photography)
This story was originally posted in October 2016.