For the first time, scientists have captured footage of a rare sea dragon ― a creature so otherworldly it appears not even the creative mind of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling could have dreamed it up.
Meet Phyllopteryx dewysea, or the ruby sea dragon.
First identified in 2015 from a handful of preserved and misidentified specimens, the ruby sea dragon is just the third sea dragon species to be discovered. Unlike its two closest relatives, the common and leafy sea dragon, the ruby is bright red in color and does not feature large camouflaging appendages.
In April, researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Western Australian Museum set out on a hunt to find this bizarre fish in the wild. They conducted their expedition in the Recherche Archipelago in Western Australia, the area where a male ruby sea dragon carrying offspring was caught in a trawl net in 2007. (At the time, that specimen was incorrectly identified as a common sea dragon.)
After several days scouring the Recherche Archipelago using a remotely operated vehicle, the team spotted not one but two of the seahorse-like creatures at a depth of more than 150 feet, swaying in the surge and feeding along the ocean floor.
“I fully expected that we knew all the sea dragon species that are out there,” she said in a YouTube video about the first-ever field sighting. “The discovery showed us that we can still find big, charismatic, bright red fish that no one has ever seen before.”
The research team published its findings Thursday in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records, in which it calls on Australian officials to protect the species as soon as possible.
Among those left stunned by the video of the discovery was JK Rowling, the master of mythical creatures.