Sea dragons, those unique species that are only found in Australia and are a treasure for divers for their bright colors.
Experts have been stunned by the dead marine fish as they looked at footage of the unusual presence of the fish on New South Wales seafronts.
Everything happened after climate change due to a combo of torrential rains and the large amount of pollutants that are discarded in the ocean, caused dozens of these strange species to have appeared dead on Australian beaches.
The dragons flooded the beaches of Cronulla, Malabar and the central coast, and it is believed that they appeared 10 times more in number than those that normally reach the beaches.
David Booth Professor of Marine Ecology at the University of Technology in Sydney told The Tampa Herald: “It’s clearly the result of a combination of shocking weather, pollutants reaching the ocean and big waves,” The Daily Star reproduces.
They can often be found in Australian waters and it is unusual for them to stray so far from their habitat, as adults only move 50-500 meters from where they hatched.
They are an endangered species
“This can make them susceptible to habitat loss and changing environmental factors,” added lead researcher Dr Selma Klanten.
The creatures, which are also known as common sea dragons, are highly sought after by divers due to their distinct colors, such as yellow and purple. They can grow up to 18 inches long and are typically found among reefs and in close connection with seahorses, The Tampa Herald reports.
The species was once listed as “threatened species” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species before they were classified in 2019 as “least concern.”
Dr. Booth works with amateur divers and citizen scientists who take pictures of the sea dragons they see on the dives.
These species can be identified using Artificial Intelligence, which can discern differences between individuals based on the mottled patterns on their bodies, from their sequin-spotted snouts to the purple stripes on their necks.
But Booth said their kelp habitats were threatened by climate change, and maintaining population data was vital, particularly after massive washouts. “This type of storm is going to be more and more frequent,” he said.
Although handling sea dragon bodies is illegal, Booth calls for sea dragons washed up in the water to be photographed and reported, and for divers and snorkelers to keep their eyes peeled for survivors, The Tampa Herald reveals.
A neighboring Narrabeen Cote inhabitant, Betty Ratcliffe has spent four years scouring these places at sunrise, but she’s never seen the bright yellow underbelly of a weedy sea dragon. Then, in a week, he found seven, he commented.