Ruby seadragon finally found

After years of searching, scientists capture the mysterious creature on video
Ruby seadragon Before this video was shot, ruby seadragons were only known by a few creatures that had washed ashore. (Wikimedia Commons)

The oceans of the world remain a great mystery to even the world's top scientists. Why? It's just so deep and wide. And dark. It's a little like outer space out there.

The proof of this is in how many new creatures are still being found. Just a couple weeks ago, we posted a super cool video of a rare ghost shark. And now we've got another underwater rarity to share with you: the ruby seadragon. Thanks to a brand new video, it is being shown alive for the very first time. Talk about a hidden gem! (You know? Ruby? Gem? Hidden... underwater? Anyway...)

See the seabuddy of the seahorse and leafy seadragon

Seadragons are a part of the Syngnathidae family of animals, which includes seahorses and pipefish. The word combines the Latin words syn (meaning "fused") and gnathus ("jaw")—this makes sense since all of these animals have mouths without separate upper and lower jaws. Instead, it's joined together as a long tube.

The ruby seadragon's closest relatives are two other species of seadragons, the leafy seadragon and the weedy seadragon. Scientists have actually known about the existence of the ruby seadragon since 2015. That was when they used DNA testing to confirm that the four specimens either found washed ashore or caught in fishing nets were indeed a unique species from other seadragons. But sadly, none of these tested specimens were alive at the time. So the animal in the wild was still a prize to be found. Until now.

This recently released footage was shot in April 2016 by a partnership of researchers at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego and the Western Australian Museum. The remotely operated camera was sent down to a depth of about 50 metres (164 feet), which is too deep for scuba divers. Watch the delicate creature in action now.

A different strategy

After watching that, you might have a few questions. Or rather, one BIG question: Why isn't it really red? That's a very good question and we have a very good answer.

It is. You just can't see it. Still don't get it?

First, let's have a quick word about seadragons. Many of us are already familiar with the leafy seadragon. These slow-moving, fragile-looking creatures are a favourite at aquariums for their otherworldly appearance. Those beautiful seaweed-like appendages are there as camouflage—when the animal floats motionless among weeds and kelp, it is very difficult for predators to spot.

Now back to the ruby seadragon. It has none of those appendages. So what is its camouflage? Well, it's in its colour.

You see, the photo of the ruby seadragon at the top of this post is taken on the surface. But this video? It's taken much deeper down. At this depth, much less light reaches the seafloor. Especially (and this is important), the light that reflects the colour red. So at the depth that the ruby seadragon lives, being red is a little like being... invisible.

Okay, not actually invisible, but still... wow, right?! So nice to meet you after all this time, ruby seadragon. You're a mystery that is worth the wait!

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