MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - Ripley's® Aquarium has welcomed two baby weedy sea dragons-a rare phenomenon in captivity. The sea dragons were introduced to the public earlier this month.

Sea dragons, a "near threatened" species native to the southern coast of Australia and Tasmania, are some of the most ornately camouflaged creatures on the planet. Leaf-shaped appendages cover their entire body to help them blend in with the seaweed and kelp they live amongst. Sea dragon babies are unusual because the female transfers her eggs to the male's tail, where they are fertilized and protected until they hatch. What makes this a rare and special event is that only nine aquarium facilities worldwide have had successful egg transfers and uptakes by a male sea dragon in captivity. Sea dragons are closely related to pipefish and seahorses, which have the benefit of carrying their eggs in a brood pouch. This provides greater protection for the developing eggs, typically resulting in the birth of as many as 300 offspring in some species. Sea dragons usually produce smaller hatches, between 100-150 offspring.

"Ripley's Aquarium in the Myrtle Beach area is one of the top aquariums in the country, and it has received that distinction because of initiatives like this," said Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. "We are very fortunate to have this world-class facility and its staff right here in our community, and we are very proud to welcome these amazing creatures to Ripley's for our visitors and residents to enjoy."

The babies were born in the height of Myrtle Beach's summer season in 2014. They joined more than 300 other varieties of aquatic species at Ripley's Aquarium, including a recently born spotted eagle ray pup-the first of its kind in South Carolina.