PHOTO IN THE NEWS: Rare Sea Dragon Father "Pregnant"

Weedy Sea Dragon Photo
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June 13, 2008—This weedy sea dragon at the Georgia Aquarium has something to celebrate on Father's Day.

He's expecting!

About 70 fertilized eggs (the small, red balls that almost look like grapes in the picture above) are attached to his tail. Dads carry the eggs in this family.

The rare creature is the third of its kind to become "pregnant" in captivity in the United States, according to aquarium officials.

He is expected to give birth in July, said Kerry Gladish, a biologist at the aquarium.

Sea dragons, seahorses and pipefish (see photo) are the only species where the male carries the eggs, Gladish said.

Sea dragon "pregnancies" in captivity are rare because researchers don't know what gets them in the mood to mate.

The Georgia Aquarium recently changed the lighting and thinned out the plants in the sea dragons' tank to give them room to court each other.

The aquarium has seven of the 18-inch (45-centimeter) sea dragons, which resemble Dr. Seuss characters, with long aardvark-like snouts, colorful sea horse bodies and multiple paddle-like fins.

During mating, the female lays dozens of eggs and then transfers them to the male's tail.

In the wild, the survival rate for sea dragon babies is low, but in captivity it's about 60 percent, Gladish said.

The fish is on the World Conservation Union's list of threatened species, mostly because of pollution and population growth in its native Australia.

—Associated Press, Atlanta, Georgia

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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