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Birch Aquarium sees birth of rare Weedy Seadragons for the first time

Posted at 1:11 PM, Feb 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-13 16:17:22-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Birch Aquarium welcomed two new residents to its waters this month, a first-ever for the aquarium.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography bred and hatched two rare Weedy Seadragons for the first time, making the aquarium one of the few in the world to now house the fish.

The fragile newborns, native to southern Australia, are under an inch long, but have already started eating tiny shrimp. The birth is the product of the aquarium's conservation efforts for the once "near threatened" sea life.

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“We are elated to have breeding success with our Weedy Seadragons. This is a momentous event for our team and our seahorse and seadragon breeding program,” said Jennifer Nero Moffatt, the aquarium’s senior director of animal care, science and conservation. “Seadragons are charismatic, sensitive, and require detailed husbandry. We have spent over 25 years working with these animals and love that we have made the next steps to conserve this delicate species.”

Weedy Seadragons perform an elaborate mating display, spinning snout-to-snout and moving up and down in a water column to transfer eggs from the female onto the male's tail, where they are fertilized and hatched 6 weeks later.

This is the first instance of the seadragon's fertilization and hatching occurring at the aquarium.

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The fish is now listed as "least concern" on the endangered species list, partially due to a lack of population data. The fish's habitat and camouflage make it extremely difficult to locate in the wild. But, they are still threatened by climate change, warming waters, compromised habitats, and fishing.

“This is an exciting day for Birch Aquarium. Not only are these births a major accomplishment for our talented Husbandry team, but also an exciting step in our commitment to conservation ,” said Harry Helling, Birch Aquarium's executive director.

While the newborn Weedy Seadragons are not on display for the public due to yearly habitat deep-cleaning, the aquarium's "Seadragons & Seahorses" exhibit is open for guests.