Leafy Sea Dragon front view [80K]

In this front view of a Leafy Sea Dragon the leafy appendages almost appear to be antlers. The dark and light spots help break up the creature's outline. The bony, hatchet-like projection from between its independently moving eyes is nearly invisible from this perspective, though the two eyes clearly have a view capable of seeing an approaching threat from nearly any direction. Also noticeable is the large diameter of the mouth at the end of the snout-- a hinge on the lower side of the mouth allows it to expand to a diameter at least as large as the rest of the tubular snout.

In recent years these creatures have become popular in various public aquariums all over the world. All candidate specimens are raised in captivity, then exported after reaching about half their adult size. Leafy dragons (or "leafies" as they are known by divers) grow to full size in one to two years. One barrier to their acquisition by aquariums is the tremendous expense of feeding them-- they feed on tiny live mysid shrimp by the hundreds, and one public aquarium biologist told me the tiny mysids cost up to 85 cents (U.S.) each to purchase.

Phycodurus eques

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