Thursday, February 26, 2009

Leafy seadragons

Leafy seadragon (taken by Neville Skinner)
We are indeed very fortunate in this day and age when it comes to Leafy seadragons. I don’t recall having had any knowledge of Leafy seadragons when I decided to take up scuba diving in 1978, even though I had been keeping marine aquariums during the 1970s.
The next day after completing my scuba course in February 1978, I dived with the (now) Marine Life Society of SA at the Bluff at Victor Harbor. It was reported that a Leafy seadragon was sighted during that dive but I have no recollection of it at all.
The first time that I recall seeing a Leafy seadragon was also at the Bluff some time later. One of the Marine Life Society members displayed one in a dive tub after our dive.
Back in those days, my fish ‘bible’ was a copy of “The Marine and Freshwater Fishes of South Australia”, a handbook of the Flora and Fauna of South Australia, issued by the Handbooks Committee on behalf of the South Australian Government.
The 2nd edition of ‘Marine & Freshwater Fishes’ had been published in 1974. The 1st edition had been published back in 1962. Both editions were full of wonderful black and white pictures of SA fish species. I would often gaze in wonder at the picture of a Leafy seadragon in my copy of the book.
A facsimile reprint of “The Marine and Freshwater Fishes of South Australia” was published in February 1980. This new version featured 42 colour photographs of different fish species, including one of a Leafy seadragon in an aquarium. Despite it being a beautiful fish, the photograph was not particularly inspiring.
I had still not managed to see a seadragon during any of my dives despite diving fairly regularly between 1978 and 1980. I had performed more than 70 dives without enjoying the exhilaration of spotting a seadragon. That all changed dramatically in May 1980. That was when I came across a Weedy seadragon at a depth of 18m at Seaford. Although I was ecstatic over this development in my diving experiences, still no Leafy.
My very next dive was at the Rapid Bay jetty later that same month. Members of the Marine Life Society were collecting fish beneath the jetty so that they could be photographed in an aquarium that had been set up on the jetty. I was again ecstatic when I found a Leafy seadragon, which was then hoisted up on to the jetty in a bucket. Several photos were taken of the amazing creature in the aquarium, under the gaze of several Society members and enthralled members of the public. One of the divers later returned the beautiful seadragon to the jetty bottom.
The sighting of a Leafy seadragon at Rapid Bay jetty is a common occurrence these days, but it wasn’t so back then. It was still considered to be a rarity for the next few years, despite sightings occurring more often in the late 1980s.
The Marine Life Society adopted the Leafy seadragon for its logo in 1982. Divers started sighting both Leafy and Weedy seadragons regularly at Rapid Bay jetty and the jetty soon became known as being one of the best spots to see both species of seadragons.
The Marine Life Society had begun recording seadragon sightings by the early 1990s. An article about the Leafy seadragon in the Marine Life Society’s 1991 Journal claimed that not a great deal had been written about the creature to that stage. That Journal tried to change all of that by featuring only articles about seadragons and this ultimately led to the formation of DragonSearch around late 1994.
Articles and photographs featuring seadragons were now starting to become very popular with the general public and within government circles. From the time of those first photos of a Leafy seadragon in an aquarium at Rapid Bay jetty, the Marine Life Society had been gathering a collection of seadragon images as part of its Photographic Index of SA Marine Life. In 1999, the Society was able to publish its first calendar of SA marine life using images from its Photographic Index. A Leafy seadragon featured on the front cover of the 1999 calendar and seadragon shots have been popular features of the annual calendar ever since then.
These days, we really are spoilt. We now have many informative books full of colour photographs of fish, including seadragons. Just about everyone that scuba dives these days carries a digital camera. Seadragon photos are now featured on numerous websites. There have been many television documentaries about seadragons and some are available on video and DVD. The Gould League’s “Seahorses and Seadragons” poster is very popular with divers and students. The Leafy seadragon really has become an icon species, which has boosted sales of everything from mouse mats and stubby holders to designer tops.
All that is required now is for us to ensure the long-time survival of seadragons by protecting their habitat from the many threats that it faces today.

Filming of a leafy seadragon documentary in SA

Leafy seadragon (taken by Neville Skinner)
Ella Danes-Smith of Icon Films ( was recently (March 2009) in Adelaide working on a television series called ‘Nick Baker’s Weird Creatures’. The program makes a point of bringing out serious issues of conservation and human impact, as well as drawing on the cultural importance of the animal in question. The ‘Leafy Sea dragon’ is one of the key ‘amazing’ creatures for this series and the crew is in South Australia in the hope of being able to film some. The crew travelled to Adelaide, the Fleurieu Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula and Kangaroo Island. They were trying to find out some more interesting facts about these amazing creatures and the environment that they live in. Also if there is anything current or relevant that has happened to do with the leafies or the weedies? Is there anything that is trying to be proven about them recently? They needed details about the leafies and their environment. Also some more detail about the locations and the problems that the leafies may come across.

Cuttlefish attacks

Aggressive cuttlefish on Seacliff Reef (Photo by Antony King)
Phil Porter from Port Lincoln recently told me, “I have just read with interest the article in the 2007 journal regarding cuttlefish attacks on divers. I had an encounter with a large cuttlefish many years ago while diving on a shipwreck just north of here. We were diving from a boat in about 20metres of water. I saw the cuttlefish sitting among the wreck and went in close for a photo. It suddenly rushed out and grabbed the camera, hanging on for several moments. It let go then retreated a little way, before suddenly deciding it wanted more. It again attacked the camera, almost ripping it from my hands. I thought it was probably getting upset because it was able to see its own reflection in the camera lens (it was an SLR in a housing with a large glass lens in front), but after letting go and retreating the second time, it swam back out and attacked my friend who was swimming slowly past. He pushed it away with his fins, and we both swam off, leaving it in peace. Toward the end of the dive, however, it again attacked us as we swam past it, heading back toward the anchor rope. It grabbed my friend's arm, but didn't bite. After pushing it away, it went back among the wreck and sat watching us until we retreated. This is the only time I have ever witnessed aggressive behavior from a cuttlefish, though I have been very close to them many times. I can't recall the exact time of year, but I think it was probably early autumn”, Phil said.
I replied to Phil, saying “I'm happy that you were interested in my article on cuttlefish attacks (see ). I am just as interested in your cuttlefish attack story. I will do whatever I can with your cuttlefish information.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2009 Leafy Sea Dragon Festival

This year's Leafy Sea Dragon Festival runs from 17th to 26th April. Visit for more details (and to see some great seadragon photos from some of my diving friends). Above image taken by Neville Skinner.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Blog List & Endangered Animals slide show

The very latest posting from Chai'sMarine Life Blog (at can now be seen near the bottom of this blog (under My Blog List). At the very bottom of this blog, below My Blog List, is a slide show on endangered animals.

Akumal sea life blog

The blog found at discusses "Marine and Coastal Conservation along the Mexican Caribbean and beyond. News and discussions about the marine conservation work of Centro Ecológico Akumal, other Caribbean conservation programs, and other marine topics." The amazing thing is that (under Other blogs on ocean conservation) it mentions this blog i.e. " Steve's Scuba Site showcases a well-balanced mixture of scuba-diving stories, ocean conservation announcements and updates, and educational tidbits. You will find many links that will guide you to even more ocean information around the Web." It also mentions Chai's Marine Life Blog i.e. "Chai's Marine Life Blog catalogs the underwater discoveries of a student and all-around underwater enthusiast. Practically the moment Tsun-Thai Chai got an underwater camera, a new blog was born." These very same details (for Steve & Chai) have also featured in material from Marine Photo Bank (see and The Akumal sea life blog says that " Centro Ecológico Akumal and the tourists who come to visit Akumal in order to remain healthy. Although coral appears to be dead rock it is very much alive and, as all life, it is fragile but also very resilient. As long as people behave properly while visiting the reef it will be able to live strong and healthy. On this site you will find information about the Mesoamerican Reef System and tips on behavior to help make sure the reef is alive and growing." According to the web page found at, Akumal is south of Cancun on the Mexican Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan peninsula. It is on the mainland near Cozemel Island - see map at

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Crabs killed by recent hot spells

Recent hot weather spells in SA caused the death of crabs on Adelaide's metropolitan beaches. Whilst many land-based creatures were struggling with the heat, crabs were reportedly being "boiled to death" in the water because of a lack of oxygen in the shallow water. I found many dead crabs on my local beaches (Semaphore/Largs) over the first two weekends in February. One can only wonder if many crabs survived the heat.

Large octopuses at The Bluff, Victor Harbor

Large octopuses were seen at The Bluff at Victor Harbor in January. Thierry Laperousaz at the SA Museum suggested that they were maori octopus.

These two images were taken by Heather Bird and Steve Reynolds.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Blue-ringed octopus with eggs and newly hatched baby

Here are some of Ray Trezise's photos of Take a close look
at the one which shows a baby octopus by the mother with eggs. Click on the photo to view an enlargement.

More of Ray Trezise's underwater photos

I've now added some more of Ray Trezise's underwater photos at I've also made them larger for better viewing.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Valentine's Day release for amorous octopus

Hopefully, everyone had a good Valentine's Day. A common (sydney?) octopus in New Zealand was released back into the wild on Valentine's Day in the hope it will find a mate . Footage of the amorous octopus and its release can be viewed at . And how many babies do octopus have? Octuplets : )

(Photo taken by David Muirhead, as featured in MLSSA’s 2005 Calendar of South Australian Marine Life, month of November.)