WATCH: Rare Ruby Seadragon Spotted in the Wild for the First Time Ever
It sounds like a magical but made-up creature, but it's the ruby seadragon is a charming ruby-colored animal that was only just classified as a species in 2015. Now, researchers manage to capture it on video, marking the first time this kind of seadragon has been spotted in the wild.
According to a report from Eurekalert, scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the Western Australian Museum went hunting for the elusive ruby seadragon in its natural habitat. It turned out to be a successful expedition in the waters by Western Australia's Recherche Archipelago as the team managed to get footage as well as new knowledge on the elusive creature.
The trip down under confirmed that the ruby seadragons do not possess the leaf-like appendages that the two other known seadragon species possess. Both the common and leafy seadragons are known for this distinguishing feature that allows them to camouflage in the rich underwater landscape. However, scientists suspect the ruby seadragon shed this trait through evolution as its red hue acts as its camouflage in its dimly-lit habitat in deeper waters.
Another special feature of this relatively new species is a prehensile, also known as a curled tail that is often seen in seahorses. This is absent in other seadragons, but seadragons may use theirs during stronger currents to grab onto objects underwater. Ruby seadragons were also observed to strike at prey for food and live in areas where there are a lot of sponges, unlike other seadragons who are known to live in areas dominated by kelp and seagrass.
"It was really quite an amazing moment," co-author and Scripps graduate student Josefin Stiller said. "It never occurred to me that a seadragon could lack appendages because they are characterized by their beautiful camouflage leaves."
The team published their findings in the Marine Biodiversity Records. A report from National Geographic revealed that it took four dives with a remote-controlled mini submarine to finally find and film two ruby seadragons at a depth of 167 feet underwater.