San Diego/ Parks & Nature
AI Assisted Icon
Published on April 02, 2024
Birch Aquarium's New Stars, San Diego Welcomes Home-Bred Weedy Seadragons to Public ExhibitSource: Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

New residents have cruised into the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and they're not your average sea creatures. Leslee Matsushige, Associate Curator at the aquarium, has proudly announced that five one-year-old Weedy Seadragons—born and bred right there—are now on public display. According to a statement obtained by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Matsushige said, "This moment is years in the making. Everything we were hoping to happen, happened. These seadragons show that the design of our display works!"

Matsushige's journey started with a trip down under in 2012, where she observed Australia's native seadragons to create an exhibit that could replicate their natural setting and promote conservation through breeding. Last year, her efforts bore fruit, or rather, seadragons, when the facility celebrated their first successful egg transfer which lead to hatching dozens of the species. Now public can see these creatures glide through the waters of an environment inspired by Matsushige's observations in Australia. Taking a photo before being introduced to their new home, each juvenile seadragon was uniquely identified, much like checking fingerprints—a process that will aid in monitoring their health and maintaining genetic diversity within captive populations.

While some of these ornate swimmers will stay at Birch Aquarium, others are slated to be shared with different Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited institutions. This move is part of a larger strategy aiming to ensure a healthy and genetically diverse population of seadragons in human care. Visitors to the Seadragons & Seahorses exhibit at Birch can now spot these little guys, measuring about nine inches in length, a stark contrast to their half-inch size at birth just over a year ago. In the Birch Aquarium's news release, Matsushige continued, "It's an exciting time to move some of our juveniles on display and we're excited to see them continue to thrive."

Although the team at Birch Aquarium believes that all five juvenile seadragons are male, the final verdict on their sex will come when they reach two years old. In the meantime, the aquarium's team is working to ensure these delicate animals have the best care possible, as they begin their public lives in the meticulously crafted display that echoes the wild Australian coast. Matsushige and her team's dedication over the years has certainly paid off, inviting aquarium guests to peer into the underwater world of one of the ocean's most mysterious and enchanting creatures.

For a closer look at these unique seadragons and to learn more about Birch Aquarium's conservation efforts, visit the Birch Aquarium website.