New seadragon unique to WA and only the third species ever recorded
WA Museum used specimen collected in 1919 to help identify new species
Find demonstrates value of museum collections to ongoing scientific research
A new species of seadragon has been discovered off the coast of Western Australia by researchers at the Western Australian Museum.
The bright red Ruby Seadragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea) is only the third species of seadragon ever recorded in the world.
Culture and the Arts Minister John Day said the discovery was nearly 100 years in the making after the first recorded seadragon specimen was washed up on Cottesloe Beach in 1919.
"For many years the specimen found in Cottesloe and another subsequent find were thought to be a common seadragon," Mr Day said.
But through a combination of modern DNA sampling technology and research linking it to other specimens, the Ruby Seadragon was shown to be a new species. It was identified and classified by WA Museum scientist Dr Nerida Wilson and her colleagues.
"This is an amazing find in Western Australian waters and clearly shows the value of our museum collections in informing current and future scientific research."
The Ruby Seadragon "˜holotype', which is the unique and irreplaceable specimen that is now the international reference point for the species, was collected in 2007 at the Recherche Archipelago near Esperance off WA's south coast. It was part of a collaborative research project between The University of Western Australia, the WA Museum and other agencies.
"Exploring, understanding and protecting our biodiversity is vital for the future. This discovery provides another Western Australian example of the wonders still to be discovered in our oceans, and how important it is that this work continues," the Minister said.
The other two species are the Leafy Seadragon (Phycodurus eques) and the Common Seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus), both found along the southern coast of Australia.
Ruby Seadragon identified by scientists from the Western Australian Museum and Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California
Two other specimens were found in collections at CSIRO
The WA Museum houses the State's scientific and cultural collections and is an important centre for ongoing research
The State Government is investing $428.3 million in redeveloping a new museum for WA
Photo of Ruby Seadragon and chart of the three seadragon species are below
Minister's office - 6552 6200