Picture, if you will, a living, undulating mass of seaweed. It doesn’t blend too well with the other masses of seaweed, far more green than this mass that seems to have broken off of the rest. It’s far more ornate than your average watery plant, and also possesses barbs. Were it not for the unsettling eye all the way to the right side of this alien mass, you might have dismissed it completely as a torn mass of seaweed.
Enter the sea dragon.
Closely related to the seahorse, this strange-looking creature is actually a fish. In certain kinds of light, this creature can appear to don either a ghostly white or sticky note yellow in its normal, non-stressed appearance. A series of lobes surround its body, lending more to the notion that it has the appearance of seaweed. None of these lobes move, yet it seems the creature has free will over its surroundings, able to move to where it needs to be at any given time. It’s only the most minute and invisible of these lobes which grants it movement, these two located near the front and back of the sea dragon.
Coming closer, you note its long, tubular mouth. Although tiny, this mouth allows the creature to consume the smallest of fish, plankton, and shrimp. In the pursuit of these minuscule creatures, the sea dragon will change its own appearance, camouflaging itself by matching the colors of its surroundings. The shimmering display is quite beautiful to watch. It doesn’t happen quite as fast as the octopus’s color-changing, but there’s something to be said about being able to see the changes occur in slow motion.
Its environment is small enough on its own, but the threats against it, generally but not exclusively man-made, continue to shrink both its habitat and its population. Its limited environment, exclusive to portions of Australia, brings in a fair amount of tourism for its renowned coral reefs. Divers wanting to admire the beautiful waters and the creatures within it often become entranced by the elegant sea dragon. When entrancement turns to curiosity, such curiosity can be incredibly stressful to the creature to the point of fatality. The problem became so bad that the Australian government had to step in and officially protect the creatures from further harm. Brought with the tourism and the humans is pollution, 2008’s number one threat to the sea dragon.
The creature swims away, slowly but surely. For a moment, you’ve been able to gaze at a creature so stunning that it deserves its protection. Before you rise to the surface, an old matra ripples through your mind…
“Take only pictures, leave only memories.”