Ladies and gentlemen, meet one of the newest known members of the animal kingdom.
For the first time, scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, have filmed a new species of seadragon in the wild. Dubbed the ruby seadragon for its resplendent red coloration, the animal was spotted off Western Australia’s Recherche Archipelago, as part of a joint expedition with the Western Australian Museum.
Scientists have known about the ruby seadragon only since 2015, when Scripps marine biologists performed a DNA analysis on several dead specimens in a museum collection. The specimens, one of which had been collected 100 years ago, were labeled as common seadragons, but DNA tests confirmed they were in fact an entirely new species. The ruby seadragon is only the third species of seadragon known to exist, joining the common seadragon and the leafy seadragon.
In April 2016, the scientists sent a remote-controlled rover down to 150 feet beneath the sea and, after a lot of searching, caught the first glimpse of the animal out in the real world, swimming and catching small prey over a sandy patch of the seafloor. The astonished scientists filmed the animal underwater for nearly 30 minutes, capturing fascinating new details about their anatomy, behavior, and habitat. For example, the video revealed that the ruby seadragon uses a curled tail to hold onto things, a behavior unknown in the other seadragon species.
The astonishing footage, which can be seen above, tickled scientists, who marveled at the fact that such lovely animals still lurk outside the realm of human knowledge. “The discovery showed us that we can still find big, charismatic, bright red fish that no one has ever seen before,” said Josefin Stiller, a Scripps graduate student who participated in the discovery.