A third and new species of seadragon has been discovered.
Named the ruby seadragon, it joins its two known counterparts, leafy and weedy, in a group characterized by seahorse-like bodies and appendages that resemble aquatic vegetation.
Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and the Western Australian Museum had been researching seadragon tissue samples with the goal of learning how to better protect them.
When they noticed something different about one of the creatures found in 2007, they requested the full specimen as well as photos taken during its capture.
They immediately saw that its deep red color was "vastly different from the orange tint in leafy seadragons and the yellow and purple hues of common seadragons."
The team then used 5,000 x-ray slices from a CT scan to create a virtual, rotating 3-D model of the distinctive creature.
The computerized recreation showed several skeletal features not found in the other two seadragons, confirming that it is indeed a new species.
Since then, researchers have uncovered at least three other ruby seadragons in archived collections, including one found almost 100 years ago, and hope to one day find them alive in the wild.
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