Unleash the Dragons! (Seadragons, that is.)

8232It’s not often that a new species is discovered almost 100 years after it was first collected and described. But we’re in a new age of taxonomy powered by new genetic and anatomical imaging tools.

While researching the two known species of seadragons as part of an effort to understand and protect the exotic and delicate fish, scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego made a startling discovery: a third species of seadragon.

Using DNA and anatomical research tools, Scripps graduate student Josefin Stiller and marine biologists Nerida Wilson of the Western Australia Museum (WAM) and Greg Rouse of Scripps Oceanography found evidence for the new species while analyzing tissue samples supplied by WAM. The researchers then requested the full specimen as well as photographs taken just after it was retrieved from the wild in 2007. They were further surprised by the appearance of the newly identified animal. The color was a bright shade of red and vastly different from the orange tint in Leafy Seadragons and the yellow and purple hues of Common Seadragons.

Stiller, Wilson, and Rouse gave their new discovery the scientific name Phyllopteryx dewysea, also referred to as the “Ruby Seadragon.”

Watch Unleash the Dragons! as Stiller shares the secrets of this newly described specie of seadragon and how it was discovered.

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