Amazing Sea Dragon Species Seen in Wild for First Time

Ruby sea dragon was only identified in 2015
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2017 10:11 AM CST

Marine biologists who look in the right places "can still find big, charismatic, bright red fish that no one has even seen before," says Josefin Stiller, a member of the team that spotted the ruby sea dragon in the wild for the first time. Stiller helped identify the rare and beautiful species—one of only three known sea dragon species, and the first to be discovered in more than 150 years—from old tissue samples in 2015. In research published Friday in Marine Biodiversity Records, Stiller and other researchers describe how they followed a hunch to find the ruby sea dragon in the wild near Recherche Archipelago off the coast of Western Australia, living at a much greater depth than the other known sea dragons, the CBC reports.

The team used a drop-down camera to study the new species in its habitat, and discovered it lacks the leafy appendages other sea dragons are known for, and that—like the seahorses it is related to—it can curl its tail to hold on to things. Researcher Greg Rouse tells the Christian Science Monitor that the species should be a "symbol of what remains to be found in the oceans." "The ocean is still a very poorly understood place in terms of biodiversity, and yet the oceans are warming, the oceans are becoming more acid, and we have a risk of losing things before we even discover them," says Rouse, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. (This "psychedelic Slinky" was recently seen in the wild for the first time in more than a century.)

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