Science Daily introduces us to a brand new sea creature, bright red and fantastically delicate, dubbed the ruby 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 identified the original Ruby Seadragon, a male carrying several dozen babies, as part of her graduate research on population genetics of the two known seadragons across the Australian coast (seadragons are found exclusively off southern Australia). She studies migration patterns and genetic diversity to help bolster seadragon conservation efforts.
The team believes the animal’s coloring suggests it inhabits deeper waters than the Leafy and Common Seadragons, as the red shading would be absorbed at depth and effectively serve as camouflage.
Following the initial finding, Wilson combed through the collections at WAM and found a second Ruby Seadragon specimen that had washed up on a Perth beach nearly a hundred years ago, and Stiller tracked down two others archived in the Australian National Fish Collection.
“This new seadragon first entered the Western Australia Museum’s collection in 1919, and lay unidentified for almost a century,” said Wilson.