Far from being ‘bubble blowers’ and taking underwater and videos, divers are playing an important role in collecting vital scientific information and lifting the veil of some of the oceans most mysterious marine animals like never before.
Enter the enigmatic Weedy Seadragon, a fairy-tale like fish that sparkles like jewels that can be found in the cooler temperate shores of Southern Australia. Weedy Seadragons are one of the few animals that actually move not to be seen. Like floating seaweed they sway with the push and pull of the tides, weed-like appendages along their elegant body helping them to disappear into their surroundings.
Despite being found close to shore, scientists still know relatively little about them. How long they live for and the many secrets that surround their unique breeding habits. In these fish, traditional roles have been reversed and it’s the female that hands over the eggs for the male to incubate until they hatch.
The arrival of spring and warming of the waters provides for this unique event to happen. Males to seek out a female and amongst the shelter of the seagrass and seaweed an elaborate courtship ritual takes place. They mimic each others movements, tails curling and with gentle prodding from the male to stimulate the female to release her eggs. When she’s ready, she transfers 200-300 bright pink berry-like eggs onto the male’s spongy tail and he is left to look after them.
To date capturing the transfer of the eggs to the male has eluded scientists and even the biggest natural history powerhouses... until now. And they’ve all been trumped by a local diver, Pang Quong.
Pang is a local legend who has been diving the cooler shores for over 40 years. There are whispers he even has gills, given you’ll find in in the water every single day of the year trying to answer the questions around how the female lays eggs on the male’s tail. Does she lay the eggs one by one on the tail? When does this happen and how long does it take? We now have the answers courtesy of Pang’s commitment to his craft and passion for documenting these extraordinary fish.
The female excretes a sticky strip laden with the eggs and carefully aligns herself with the male. He wiggles the egg strip into place where they magically stick to his tail. You can see in Pang’s footage the female wiggling along side the male as if to show him how to do it properly. The entire process taking only a matter of minutes. This footage is not only a world-first, it’s going to provide valuable information for scientists and authorities to help protect and manage these unique fish into the future.
To see the full sequence check out Pang’s Seadragon footage at: