Caught and Coloured: Zoology Illustrations from Colonial Victoria

Common Seadragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus

Image Details
  • Plate Number: 65
  • Media: Lithographic proof - lithographic ink on paper
  • Artist: Ludwig Becker
  • Lithographer: Ludwig Becker
Transcript from the Prodromus of Zoology

Plate 65, Figure 1. The Leafy Sea-Dragon, Phyllopteryx foliatus (now known as the Common or Weedy Seadragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) found in Portland/Hobsons Bay/Western Port

This most singular-looking fish must have struck the Aborigines with some superstitious feeling, as I have seen a native drawing of a ghost, manifestly inspired by its strange form. The leafy appendages resemble bits of brown seaweed, and vary slightly, frequently showing a rich blue color. The above dull colors are those I have seen in one living specimen, and several just dead and quite fresh. The brilliantly colored fish represented in the Zoological Proceedings for 1865, plate 14, and in Mrs. Meredith's "Tasmanian Friends and Foes," plate 7, with yellow, crimson, and purple hues, is really a distinct species, for which I propose the name P. altus, because the greatest height or depth of the body exceeds the length of the snout from anterior edge of orbit, and equals about ten of the posterior body segments, or mid-row of spines in front of anal, while the greatest depth of the body in our common Victorian dull-colored species, as here figured, and as also in Shaw's original figure of the species, is scarcely ¾th the length of the snout, and only measures about 7 of the lateral spines of the hinder body segments in front of the anal.

Like the Pipe-fishes, the males of this fish carry the eggs in a soft membrane on the lower side of the tail, without, however, having a distinct pouch like the males of the true Pipe-fishes.

The Sea-dragons swim horizontally, like ordinary fish, and not in a vertical position, like Sea-horses.

Common at Western Port, not very uncommon in Hobson's Bay, and Geelong and Portland, from all of which localities specimens are in the National Museum.

Plate 65, Figure 2. Short-headed Sea-Horse, Hippocampus breviceps (now known as the Shortsnout Seahorse, Hippocampus breviceps) found in Hobson's Bay

The extraordinary resemblance to a horse's head and neck has suggested the popular name of Sea-horse for these beautiful little fishes in all European countries...

They are the most lovely and interesting objects in an aquarium. In swimming they maintain an erect position, very unlike other fish. Fixing themselves to a stem of swaying seaweed by their inrolled prehensile tails, they maintain an upright watchful attitude, balancing themselves by their pectoral fins, and rolling their bright, prominent, yellow eyes about in all directions, one often directed forwards and the other backwards, like the chameleon.

Like all the family Syngnathidæ, or Pipe-fishes, the males carry the eggs about for a period in a sac along the under surface of the tail-a marsupial habit "with a difference," as far as the sex is concerned, of a curiously suggestive kind, as to why males should not in other creatures have the trouble of protecting the young instead of the almost universal arrangement of leaving it to the females.

This little species is common in Hobson's Bay, but has not been figured before.