Birch Aquarium Announces Pregnant Weedy Seadragon

In what is an extremely rare occurrence, Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego is announcing the first successful transfer of eggs from a female weedy seadragon to a male in the Seadragons & Seahorses habitat, which opened in May 2019.

Birch Aquarium Pregnant Weedy Seadragon

Pregnant Weedy Seadragon causes monumental milestone

“We’re elated to be able to witness this at the aquarium. It’s extremely rare for seadragons to breed in captivity so this is a monumental milestone for all of our staff,” said Jenn Nero Moffatt, Senior Director of Animal Care, Science and Conservation.

“We have been working with seadragons since 1996. Since then, we have learned so much about caring for these creatures and invested a lot in our breeding program. From the lighting to the rockwork; everything has been strategically designed with breeding seadragons in mind.”

Like seahorses, seadragon males — not females — are responsible for carrying eggs. An egg transfer is quick, but occurs only after the seadragons participate in an elaborate courtship “dance.” The male and female mirror each other, often with their tails curled away from their mate, and spin together snout-to-snout moving up and down in the water column. This dance is essential for the successful transfer of eggs from the female onto the male’s tail, where he then fertilizes and hosts the eggs.

Birch Aquarium’s seadragon will carry the eggs on his tail for four to six weeks until they are ready to hatch. Only a small percentage of eggs will develop. The aquarium’s Husbandry Team is keeping a close eye on the pregnant weedy seadragon. He is doing well and can be seen up close in Seadragons & Seahorses, though he might move behind the scenes closer to the hatching date.

Birch Aquarium Pregnant Weedy Seadragon

Seadragons & Seahorses

Seadragons & Seahorses features one of the largest seadragon habitats in the world. It was designed to create an ideal environment to breed seadragons. The stunning display is 18-feet wide, 9-foot-tall and holds 5,375 gallons of water.

Though this is the first time a seadragon has laid eggs on the public side of the aquarium, Birch Aquarium has previously seen success behind the scenes with the birth of two Weedy Seadragon babies in February 2020 when it became one of only a handful of aquariums in the world to breed these mysterious animals.

Endemic to southern Australia, Weedy Seadragons face challenges in the wild including climate change, warming oceans and compromised habitats.

Pregnant Weedy Seadragon

In partnership with Scripps Oceanography scientists, Birch Aquarium has been studying weedy seadragons both in the wild and in our state-of-the art captive breeding facility to alleviate pressure on wild populations.

Visit here to learn more about our Seadragon Breeding Program.

See you there, San Diego!

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