(March 29, 2012) –
Georgia Aquarium is excited to announce that the largest U.S. brood of weedy sea dragons in a zoo or aquarium setting has been hatched. More than 100 baby sea dragons were born off-exhibit in the Aquarium’s Quarantine facility, and to date, the Aquarium has the highest survivorship of 56%. Georgia Aquarium is among a small group of aquariums in the U.S. to successfully hatch weedy sea dragons.
Interestingly, the male weedy sea dragon “gives birth” to the hatchlings. The female lays between 150-200 eggs onto the soft underside of the male's tail where the eggs are embedded into the skin in cup-like structures that harden and form around each egg to hold and protect them during brooding. After about two months, the bright pink eggs hatch into miniature juveniles, which settle into the vegetation. Georgia Aquarium aquarists discovered that the male sea dragon was carrying the bright pink eggs on Christmas Eve 2011. The babies began hatching 45 days later with all hatching on day 47.
After the babies were born they were transferred into a special off-exhibit holding system to keep them safe from adult weedy sea dragons and allow the aquarists to provide them with special food items such as tiny shrimp. The babies require high energy, yet very small prey items that fit into their tiny mouths. Newly hatched brine shrimp and mysid shrimp are fed 4-5 times each day to the fast growing larval fish. Each baby can consume as many as 10 shrimp during each feeding session.
They have since grown to approximately 1/10 adult size but are large enough to safely navigate in the exhibit and forage for food. Although they are smaller, less colorful and have a much shorter snout, the juvenile weedy sea dragon closely resembles the adult. The new babies are about 1/2 inch long and weighed fractions of an ounce at birth. Very unique-looking animal, weedy sea dragons are relatives of sea horses and pipe fish and live in the shallow coastal waters of Southern and Eastern Australia, including Tasmania.
The weedy sea dragon is listed as “near threatened,” due primarily to habitat concerns, on the IUCN Red List 2011, and is a protected species in its indigenous Southern Australia and Tasmania. With their leaf-like fins and frilly appendages, the weedy sea dragon camouflages itself perfectly among seaweed and sea grass beds.
For more information on the Aquarium’s weedy sea dragons or to purchase the all-new Total Ticket, please visit www.georgiaaquarium.org or call 404-581-4000.
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ABOUT GEORGIA AQUARIUM
Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, is the world’s largest with more than 10 million gallons of water and the largest collection of aquatic animals. The mission of Georgia Aquarium is to be an entertaining, educational and scientific institution featuring exhibits and programs of the highest standards; offering engaging and exciting guest experiences promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. Georgia Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org.