Scientists have released a study and a video capturing the first ever public appearance of a ruby seadragon, a rare species.
Seadragons are an almost mythical species. They have long, straw-like snouts. And also various appendages protruding from various places. For over 150, science has been aware of the existence of two such species. However, some years back, two biologists discovered a third.
Josefin Stiller and Greg Rouse are marine biologists. They made the find back in 2015. The two stumbled upon the ruby seadragon by chance. They were analyzing the museum collections of seadragons. As it was, no one had seen a live specimen.
This also led to a race. Since then, researchers have been trying to spot the elusive creature.
And they finally succeeded. Back in April 2016, marine biologists first spotted the seadragon. It was detected in the Southern Ocean. This is its natural habitat. And they also managed to catch it on video.
The live animal and the video revealed some surprises. These are better presented in a new study. the aforementioned Stiller and Rouse are its lead authors. Rouse is a University of California, San Diego Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Ms. Stiller is his Ph.D. student.
A research on the matter was released earlier this week. It was published in the Marine Biodiversity Records journal. Released on January 13, it was titled as follows. “First live records of the ruby seadragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea Syngnathidae)”.
The two were reportedly not expecting to discover a new species. They were analyzing the leafy seadragon. And also looking at the common seadragon. Their research was part of a population genetics project.
This knowledge was quite helpful. It helped spot the new species. The ruby seadragon had never before been spotted. Its live video revealed some facts.
For example, it has curled tail. This prehensile tail is similar to that of the seahorse, its cousin. Many more details were gathered based on its viewing.
They noted two ruby seadragon specimens. These were observed for about 30 minutes. A camera-equipped robot was used so as to detect them. It was dropped around 160 feet deep.
The area selected was Bremer Bay. This is situated off the southern Australian coast. The ruby color hinted at a deeper environment.
Research and the live view noted the following. the species lives in a “sponge garden habitat”. This is a sparse environment, deep inside the sea. Ruby seadragons were noted to have appendage stubs. But they lacked the respective appendages. Apparently, their environment does not require such parts.
Still, the tails seem to have been the biggest surprise. The researchers did not expect it to be curled. They theorized as follows. It might help them hold on to something.
It may be a needed action when the waters get rougher. This latter might be quite a frequent phenomenon in those areas.
More research will nonetheless be needed. Data on the other two species will also help. According to Rouse, the ruby seadragon is very similar to the common one. The similarities are in appearance. Still, the former has a different vertebrae number. And they lack the appendages, as mentioned.
This last fact is quite a mystery. Research will try to establish the evolutionary order. More exactly, if the ruby seadragon lost them. Or if the others developed them.
More such questions will potentially arrive. And hopefully, they will receive an answer. Their population genetics research may offer an inestimable help.
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