Discover the quirky side of South Australia’s marine life

Discover the quirky side of South Australia’s marine life



Curi­ous about SA’s marine life? Check out these wacky facts about the inner work­ings of some of our local species.


An often unseen world lies beneath the waves, and it’s here that some amaz­ing and unex­pect­ed things hap­pen. Intrigued? Check out these weird and whacky facts about some of South Australia’s marine life:

1. Whale vomit

We don’t blame you if you’ve nev­er thought about whale vom­it before, but you might find this whale of a tale quite interesting.

Whale vom­it, or amber­gris, is a sol­id waxy sub­stance pro­duced by the bile duct in the intes­tine of a sperm whale, and takes years to form.

So next time you stum­ble across a rock on the beach make sure you look care­ful­ly, as you might have actu­al­ly stum­bled across some whale vomit.

Believe it or not, amber­gris is a hot com­mod­i­ty in the per­fume indus­try. It is used as a fix­ing agent in per­fume, which allows scents to last much longer.

Discover the quirky side of South Australia’s marine life

2. Eggs and our Num­ber 1 dad

With their beau­ti­ful leaf-like appendages, leafy sea drag­ons are SA’s marine emblem. But did you know it’s the male sea drag­on that car­ries and cares for the eggs?

Female leafy sea drag­ons deposit their eggs onto the male’s tail, and the eggs then attach to a brood patch – a hotspot for incu­bat­ing eggs. 

After 9 weeks the eggs begin to hatch and the male pumps his tail to help the young emerge.

Discover the quirky side of South Australia’s marine life

3. Sea star stomachs

Sea star’s have a feed­ing method unlike any oth­er. To eat, the echin­o­derm ejects its stom­ach from its own body, plac­ing it over the digestible parts of its prey.

It then secretes diges­tive flu­ids to par­tial­ly digest its prey, then pulls its stom­ach and the par­tial­ly digest­ed prey back into its body to fin­ish digestion.

Discover the quirky side of South Australia’s marine life

4. Dol­phin milk­shake anyone?

While dol­phins live in the ocean they are actu­al­ly mam­mals not fish – the female dol­phin pro­duces milk from her mam­ma­ry glands to feed her calf.

Dol­phins have invert­ed nip­ples inside mam­ma­ry slits. When the calf is ready to feed, they dive under­neath the moth­er and nudge the mam­ma­ry slits. 

The nip­ple is released, and the moth­er feeds milk to the calf that rolls its tongue into a u‑shaped tube.

You might be won­der­ing how do the calves get at this milk since they don’t have lips?’ Good ques­tion. The calf rolls its tongue into a straw-like shape which keeps the milk in and salt water out.

The milk can be as thick as a milk­shake, which helps the calves drink it with­out it mix­ing with sea water.

Head out in a kayak at the Ade­laide Dol­phin Sanc­tu­ary and you might be lucky enough to spot a feed­ing dol­phin calf. But be sure to keep your dis­tance and not harass the mammals. 

Discover the quirky side of South Australia’s marine life

5. The nerds of the sea

Did you know that the major­i­ty of neu­rons in an octo­pus are found in its arm? 

That means it can inde­pen­dent­ly taste, touch and con­trol basic motions with­out input from its brain. 

Because of this, octo­pus­es are often described as hav­ing 9 brains, one in each arm and one in it’s head. Appar­ent­ly they are as smart as a domes­tic cat or dog. Cool, huh!

Not only are they the braini­acs of the sea but they also have 3 hearts and blue-coloured blood. 

If you are lucky enough to spot one of these inter­est­ing crea­tures be care­ful, as some octo­pus­es can be extreme­ly poisonous.

Discover the quirky side of South Australia’s marine life

Impor­tance of marine parks

Stretch­ing the entire length of SA’s coast, marine parks help man­age and pro­tect the state’s most impor­tant nat­ur­al marine habitats.

Just like parks on land, marine park sanc­tu­ary zones are set aside for con­ser­va­tion – essen­tial­ly they are the nation­al parks of the sea.

There’s plen­ty to see under the sea – check out our sto­ries for inspi­ra­tion: 10 top spots to snorkel in South Aus­tralia, 5 black-and-white fish you can see in South Aus­tralian waters and 5cryp­tic’ fish to look for on your next snorkelling trip in South Aus­tralia.

(Main image cour­tesy of Lebati­hem via flickr)

This sto­ry was orig­i­nal­ly post­ed in Sep­tem­ber 2017.


This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living