This little beauty is a leafy sea dragon and I got interested in them when I saw a documentary about them a few weeks ago. They are found around the southern coast of Australia from Jurien Bay in Western Australia to Wilson's Promontory in Victoria. South Australia has even named it as its official marine emblem.
Related to the seahorse, leafy seadragons grows to 20-24 centimetres in length while their cousins, the weedy sea dragons, can reach 46 centimetres. Their graceful "fronds" are for camouflage so it appears as part of the seaweed it lives among.
Like seahorses the male broods the eggs. The female deposits the eggs on the brood patch on his belly. He then carries them until they hatch up to nine weeks later. When they start to emerge it takes 24-48 hours of the male shaking his tail and rubbing against rocks and seaweed to help the babies out. Now that's what I call equal opportunity reproduction.
Leafy sea dragons are listed as near threatened because of pollution and habitat damage. They are also collected by divers for aquariums and is apparently used as an ingredient in alternative medicine. Now that last is a horrible thought. That anyone could destroy such a beautiful creature for what is likely to be a useless purpose appalls me.
You can see more photos of these amazing fish here.