Caught and Coloured: Zoology Illustrations from Colonial Victoria




A Most Singular-Looking Fish

Ludwig Becker produced the first known illustration of a Weedy Seadragon from Victorian waters in 1858.

It is likely that the animal was dead when the artist took out his watercolours to capture its likeness, for while Becker's spidery lines capture its extraordinary form, the colour is rather more drab than in life.

In his accompanying description, McCoy speculated that an Aboriginal drawing he had seen was 'manifestly inspired' by the seadragon. Unfortunately the drawing referred to has never come to light.

It is pleasantly ironic that this animal, which McCoy described as a 'most singular-looking fish', is now the official marine emblem of Victoria.

This most singular-looking fish must have struck the Aborigines with some superstitious feeling, as I have seen a native drawing of a ghost, manifestly inspired by its strange form.

Like the Pipe-fishes, the males of this fish carry the eggs in a soft membrane on the lower side of the tail, without, however, having a distinct pouch like the males of the true Pipe-fishes.

The Sea-dragons swim horizontally, like ordinary fish, and not in a vertical position, like Sea horses.

Common at Western Port, not very uncommon in Hobson's Bay, and Geelong and Portland, from all of which localities specimens are in the National Museum.


Common or Weedy Seadragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus, by Ludwig Becker, 14 December 1858.
Shortsnout Seahorse, Hippocampus breviceps, by Ludwig Becker, January 1859.
Lithograph combining both Common or Weedy Seadragon, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus and Shortsnout Seahorse, Hippocampus breviceps.