Walking through the Sea Horses exhibit at Monterey Aquarium, I was surrounded by excited children and their harassed parents. I walked past a large tank of Pacific Seahorses and saw a multi-coloured streak in the next tank. With child-like joy I realised it was something I’d wanted to see for many years.
Some time ago I watched a BBC wildlife documentary called Oceans. Much of it dealt with the destruction of the kelp forests, and how this loss of habitat was endangering a variety of species.
One of those species was an odd looking creature called a Sea Dragon. They were beautiful in a weird sort of way – brightly coloured and moving with the minimum of effort, looking fragile yet quite noble.
I immediately wanted to see one. A bit of research showed that they’re extremely rare, and only live in the waters of southern and western Australia. This was disheartening.
I’ve no plans to go to Australia. Ever. Not sure why, but it just doesn’t appeal. I’d probably love it if I went, but I’m unlikely to do so. It may be the amount of travel required in getting there, and that there are so many other places on the way I’m more passionate about visiting.
Even if I did go, I can’t dive. I’ve tried and failed – due to a punctured ear drum when I was younger I just can’t equalise the pressure on one side, so get an agonising pain in my ear. It’s the same in landing aircraft, but that only lasts for a few minutes during the descent. The pain when diving is constant and excruciating anywhere below a couple of meters.
This meant I was resigned to never getting to observe a live Sea Dragon.
The tank I was staring at in Monterey Aquarium held a pair of Sea Dragons. Inexplicably it had never occurred to me they might be in an aquarium…
The easiest ones to spot are the colourful Weedy Sea Dragons. About 18-inches long, their dark bodies are accented with blues and yellows. The only sign of movement is the little quill at the top of the tail, which flutters rapidly to propel them through the water.
The next tank had a collection of leaves and a sign saying “Leafy Sea Dragon”. Far better camouflaged that its gaudy relative the Leafy Sea Dragon is covered in green and yellow fins to match their habitat. The destruction of this habitat is making them easy prey for predators and humans, who want to add them to their fish tanks.
The Oceans documentary was excellent – the only thing that could have improved it was a voice over by Sir David Attenborough. Here’s another,with just that. Yay!: