Dragon fish is a rare and dangerous species. Found in the Black, Mediterranean and Atlantic seas. The genus includes several species, among which there are both perch-like and those that are similar to seahorses. Fish differ significantly from each other and externally. The main feature is that the Great Sea Dragon is a poisonous fish that poses a danger to both fishermen and tourists. that’s why it’s important to know its main differences and way of life.
Origin of the species and description
The large sea dragon belongs to the ray-finned (perch). But the small (deciduous, rag-picker) is a subspecies of needle fish and belongs to seahorses. These two large subcategories of draconian representatives differ in almost everything: from appearance to lifestyle features. Although there is also a common feature – all these fish are predators.
Video: Dragon fish
In total, 9 main types are distinguished among dragons. At the same time, the most interesting thing is that even in the modern world this list is replenished with new species. The length of the body of the fish varies from 15 to 55 cm. It all depends on what type of dragon it belongs to.
The fish lead predominantly nocturnal. Large dragons are distinguished by the fact that they are classified as poisonous fish. By themselves, the glands on the body are absent and the poison is present only on the thorns. It is believed that it is not fatal to humans. But it can provoke severe allergic reactions and disturbances in the work of the heart.
Many sources provide information that these are one of the very first fish that appeared on our planet. By the way, it is interesting that small dragons are among the most beautiful fish that exist in nature, while a large dragon often frightens with its appearance, although to some it resembles the most ordinary goby.
Appearance and features
The largest among the representatives of the genus is considered a grass dragon – it can reach a length of half a meter. It is also considered the largest among the subtypes of seahorses. The main distinguishing feature is precisely the bizarre body decoration.
The leafy sea dragon is in many ways similar to the classic seahorse, the rag-picker has a less remarkable color. Because of this, when it drifts in the water column, it is often confused with common algae. A thin snout, a flattened head and an elongated body – this is what distinguishes a small sea dragon from the general mass.
Fancy outgrowths are located all over the body, having a thin base and gradually expanding like blades. They are designed solely to protect the fish from enemies, otherwise it has no chance – the speed of movement of small sea dragons does not exceed 150 m/h.
The color of the small dragon is very diverse. Yellow and pink prevail here, on top of which there are pearl dots. Narrow blue stripes arranged vertically adorn the front of the fish’s body.
The big dragon is not so attractive in appearance, but no less remarkable. On his head you can see a black crown with spikes, and in the region of the gill arches – games. The head of this fish is large with a massive jaw, which is studded with small teeth. On the lower jaw is a long mustache. It is also noted that the dragon fish has very large and expressive eyes. Despite such aggressive behavior, the size of the fish is not too impressive – the body length reaches only 15-17 cm.
Interesting fact: The grassy sea dragon has a lot of processes along the body that distinguish it out of the general mass and make it look more like a fairy-tale creature than a fish. In fact, these appendages do not actually perform any tasks – they are intended only for disguise.
Where does the dragon fish live?
Habitat and preferences in terms of water are directly dependent on which species of sea dragon is being considered. Deciduous and grass dragons, which are relatives of seahorses, prefer the waters of South, Western Australia. The most comfortable for their habitat is water of moderate temperature closer to the shore.
The large sea dragon is a much more common species in nature. It is found almost all over the world. The exceptions are the North and South Poles. The most favorite habitat for the dragon is sandy areas. That is why Bulgaria is just an ideal place for them to live. The little dragon can feel great both in deep water and near the coast.
You can also meet this kind of sea dragons in the Black Sea. But the most common sea dragons are in the tropics. There they can be found at a depth of up to 1.5 km. If the fish makes trips to the deepest regions, then only short ones. The reason is that they need to hunt, and this can only be done in areas where you can hide and wait for prey.
For a dragon fish, this can only be done by burrowing into the sandy bottom. Conclusion: the dragon just needs to stay as close to the bottom as possible. In addition, this can be done only in those areas where a large accumulation of potential prey also lives near the bottom. The dragon is exclusively a marine fish and therefore does not enter the mouths of the rivers, so there is definitely nothing to fear there.
By the way, in the seas with an excessively high level of salt in the water, the slave also feels uncomfortable. The sea with moderate salinity and fairly warm water is considered the most favorable for fish. At the same time, the dragon can also adapt to the harsh climate. For example, in the Black Sea, the water can be quite cold in winter – this does not prevent a large dragon from feeling quite normal there.
Now you know where the dragon fish is found. Let’s see what it eats.
What does dragon fish eat?
Regardless of species, sea dragons are all predators, so they feed on other marine life. Crustaceans and small fish are the main prey of sea dragons. At the same time, a large dragon leads a more active lifestyle, so it is always easier for him to get food. Since it is sometimes difficult to catch a fish, crustaceans still form the basis of the diet of a large sea dragon. But unlike his herbal counterpart, he practically does not eat plant foods.
The small sea dragon has no teeth and therefore simply swallows its prey. Most often, this fish prefers shrimp, swallowing up to 3 thousand per day. He can also eat small fish, simply sucking food. In shallow water, a small dragon may also consume algae or scavenge food leftovers from the shore.
Fun fact: Deaths have been reported from sea dragon venom. The cause of death is the development of heart failure. Pain shock is also dangerous.
Since dragons live in warm waters, there are usually no seasonal dietary restrictions. But for the inhabitants of cold waters, nature has provided for seasonal migration to a warmer water area. By the way, although a large dragon is much faster than a small one, he prefers to practically not pursue prey, but to take a waiting position at the bottom of the reservoir. Only in rare cases do dragons hunt in schools. They mostly prefer solitary hunting.
Character and lifestyle features
The lifestyle and behavior of sea dragons differ depending on which species will be considered . All fish of this genus are predators, but there are still some special differences in behavior. For example, the main difference is precisely the hunt for other representatives of the deep sea. The big dragon spends most of its time in search of prey, sitting in ambush and waiting for the next victim.
At the same time, the small sea dragon is absolutely harmless and does not pose any threat to humans and many other fish. Although he is also a predator, he still does not conduct such an active hunt. This is primarily due to the fact that plant foods may well be included in the diet. Large dragons prefer to lead a solitary lifestyle, while small dragons huddle in flocks.
One thing unites these species – the desire to hide as much as possible. If large dragons prefer to burrow into the sand, then small ones simply hide in the algae. Grass dragons can blend with them so skillfully that they go unnoticed for a long time. When a dragon hunts, most often it simply burrows into the sand or mud. There he can only wait for his prey.
Unfortunately, because of this, the dragon can be dangerous not only for other marine life, but above all for humans. Even when you see a sea dragon, it is easy to confuse it with a simple goby. But most often the dragon is simply not noticed in the water. This threatens with the fact that you can simply step on it, in response to which the fish bites and injects poison.
Social structure and reproduction
Small sea dragons are simply amazing parents. They take care of their babies for a very long time. At the same time, males take the most active part in this. Unlike their counterparts (skates), small dragons do not have a bag in which they can safely bear eggs. Here, nature has provided a more complex system: fertilized eggs are securely fixed under the tail of the male with the help of a special fluid.
The female first lays about 120 bright red eggs, which are then fertilized. After fixing, their pairs actively communicate with each other, arranging mating dances, during which the fish approach each other and change color to a brighter one. When about 6-8 weeks have passed, small dragons will appear.
Outwardly, they are completely similar to their parents and there are no serious differences. Then they can live completely independently and reach puberty by 2 years. In rare cases (about 5%), the fish continue to live with their parents.
The large sea dragon prefers to breed exclusively in shallow water. In the period May-November, the fish goes closer to the shore for spawning. At the same time, how close to the shore, directly depends on the species of fish. For example, the Black Sea dragon does not at all come closer at this time to those areas where the depth is 20 m. The large dragon lays its eggs in the sand. As a result, fry will appear from them.
Natural Enemies of Dragon Fish
In nature, the enemies of sea dragons are large predatory fish. Moreover, it is actually much easier for a big dragon to protect itself, thanks to the thorn and poison. Sperm whales and other large fish most often attack dragons, simply swallowing them along with other fish.
Sometimes, dragons can become prey for animals that come close to the seashore. If you catch and then eat fish correctly, you can easily feast on it, just taking it out of the sandy bottom.
Interesting fact: One of the main enemies of the sea dragon is a man. Despite the fact that the fish is poisonous, its meat is very tasty. Therefore, if the fish is properly butchered, it can be eaten without harm to health.
The most susceptible to this danger are small sea dragons (relatives of skates). Often people can even unwittingly injure the fish, trying to stroke it or even pull it out of the water in order to examine it in more detail. That is why fishing is severely punished under Australian law.
Other inhabitants of the deep sea are dangerous to them for the reason that dragons swim very badly and slowly. Also, unlike the big dragon, they are not poisonous and do not have any weapons that can somehow protect them from the encroachments of other fish or humans. Only one thing can save a dragon from predatory fish – its specific color, which helps to easily hide and become inconspicuous.
Population and species status
Clear it is very difficult to estimate the population of sea dragons. It can be said about large dragons that there are a lot of them. In addition, the number is increasing significantly every year. But the same cannot be said about small ones. Their population is gradually declining.
It is not possible to accurately estimate their number due to the high level of conspiracy. For example, many divers complain that in 20-30 years they have never been able to see a small sea dragon, which is why they are already beginning to consider it just a legend.
Also, some species have only recently been discovered and practically not studied. It should also be taken into account that various types of sea dragons inhabit the entire water area of the World Ocean, so it is not possible to count them even very conditionally. That is, with regard to the large sea dragon, the status of a species for which there is no concern is quite applicable. But the small dragon is under the threat of extinction.
A number of reasons can be summed up for this:
- unfavorable living conditions;
- excessive popularity among people;
- lack of any protection against predators other than conspiracy;
That is why the capture of small sea dragons is prohibited, in addition, they are actively protected at the state level.
Dragon fish guard
Some subspecies of this wonderful fish are listed in the Red Book. In particular, this applies to the leafy sea dragon. This is more likely due to the interest shown by aquarists, who, due to their attractive appearance, prefer to get fish in their private collections.
Against this background, this species of fish was actively caught. At the same time, at the moment, the need has disappeared, since it is quite possible to breed fish artificially, obtaining the necessary individuals for private collections. Increased protection is necessary for the species rather because of the lack of knowledge. Against this background, some types of dragons are still completely unknown to the world. For example, recently (in 2015) a new species was discovered – the Red Dragon, which is found off the coast of Australia.
Prior to that, he was practically not met at all, or was attributed to leafy dragons. This species is actively protected today due to the fact that the red dragon has become the object of desire for many collectors. If we talk about the big sea dragon, then there is nothing to fear at all. The population is not simply decreasing, but even increasing. According to approximate statistics, recently the population of the big dragon in the Black Sea has been increasing dramatically.
This trend is especially noticeable off the coast of Bulgaria. On average, in recent years, the population of a large dragon has grown by almost 5 times, which scares the fishermen. This is largely due to the general trend towards warming weather. Against this background, fish breed much more actively and live longer. That is why you certainly should not be afraid for the number of large dragons in nature. Although sea dragon meat is very tasty, it is precisely because of the difficulty of catching this fish that this fish is not a very common object of fishing.
Dragon fish is a diverse fish that can differ in appearance and lifestyle, depending from the species in question. The main thing when studying this fish is to be extremely careful and not for a second forget about its poisonous spikes. That is why it is important for vacationers to inspect the area where they are, so as not to fall into the trap of an evil dragon. Otherwise, you will need quick medical help.