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Kelly Tarlton's claims world first after breeding spiny sea dragon in captivity

Scientists at Auckland's Kelly Tarlton's are claiming a world first after successfully breeding the spiny sea dragon in captivity.

Auckland's Kelly Tarlton’s has successfully bred spiny sea dragons. Source: 1 NEWS

Now they hope to learn more about the elusive species.

"They're a pretty amazing creature, they come from the same family as a seahorse and a pipe fish," marine scientist Patrick Gough says.

The thing is, no-one is quite sure how they reproduce.

"You can kinda guess what happened, but factors we don't know is what changed, maybe they were getting more food at a certain time, the temperature was right and yeah, they were feeling happy about themselves."

Spiny sea dragons are cousins of the leafy sea dragon and prefer the ocean depths.

Like sea horses, the male carries the eggs, but the elusive creatures are seldom seen by human eyes.

"No-one really knows anything about them whatsoever and that's one of the exciting things about having these baby sea dragons, where every single thing we're noticing they're learning from.

"Their gestation period we're hoping to learn something about that, how long it takes them to grow to get to adult size," Gough says.

The successful dad is carrying six more eggs, and it's hoped they'll all hatch and one day end up on public display.