Sea Dragons Sharing Secrets in Captivity

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"It was all up to them," said Forsgren, who has managed the sea dragon exhibit for two years. "They just decided they were going to mate and reproduced. I don't understand the dynamics involved in who it was who mated. I just came in one day and they decided to mate."

"They pretty much run the show."

During mating, the female produces bright pink eggs, which she transfers to the male. The male then carries them on the underside of his tail for about four to six weeks. Once they are born they are independent.

Big Daddy gave birth first, followed by Poppa Dragon.

Babies Scattered Across the Continent

Of the 40 babies thriving today, all but a handful were sent to live in aquariums across North America so others could study and breed them.

North American aquariums were chosen because Forsgren and others at the Long Beach aquarium didn't know how to transport the fragile newborns. And they knew it was precious cargo. "These guys do not have another species in their genus," Forsgren said. "If we lose these animals, then we will not have a lot of information about what these animals were or how they evolved or who their ancestors were."

For now, Forsgren is waiting to see when her babies might mate. She guesses that the sea dragon's life span is five to seven years, but she doesn't know for sure. The sea dragon toddlers look a little too small to reproduce now, she said.

But maybe next year.

"It's very exciting to watch the animals grow," she said. "Every day we learn a little more."

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