Bearded dragons are popular as pets all around the world due to their amiable personality, special smiles, and indolent nature. Let’s learn more fun facts about these bearded dragons, such as their astonishing capacity to change sexes.
1. They have a unique appearance
The bearded dragon is a type of lizard. It features a large body and a long tail that is more than half its length. It can reach the full size of up to 2 feet (61 cm) in length and weigh 1.1 pounds (510 g). On each side of its triangular head, there’s an ear hole. Under its jaw and along its flanks, you’ll find multiple spines.
Most bearded dragons have grey coloration. Some also have tints of black, orange, fawn, and brown. Their eyes, which are located on the side of their heads, are usually yellow.
Female and male bearded dragons have some important distinctions. Males are typically 20% heavier than females. They have two hemipenal bulges to keep the genital organs, while females have one bulge centered on their abdomen.
There are eight separate bearded dragon species. Each has a different size, colors, and has its own behavior. They are Pogona barbata (Eastern bearded dragon), Pogona henrylawsoni (Pygym is the smallest bearded dragon), Pogona microlepidota (Small-scaled dragon), Pogona minor minor, Pogona minor minima (Dwarf bearded dragon), Pogona minor mitchelli, Pogona nullarbor, and Pogona vitticeps (Central bearded dragon).
Among these eight species, only four of them being maintained as pets. Because of the gentle and quiet temperament, Pogona vitticeps is the most popular.
You can see more about breaded dragon morph here:
Due to its popularity, the animals are bred to have diverse patterns and colors, a process known as morphing. Some morphs take multiple generations of breeding to achieve exceptional shades or patterns.
There are now more than 20 bearded dragon morphs. Three main types are:
- Scalation: Leatherback, Silkback (Silkie or Scaleless), Microscale, and Dunner
- Color: Orange (orange, tangerine, sandfire, sunburst), Yellow (citrus, green, lemon fire, sandfire gold), Albino, Black, White, Translucent, Red (blood, ruby), Brown, Green, Blue/Purple.
Some popular morphs are Classic/Standard, Paradox bearded dragon, Witblits, Zero, Wero, German giant, Hypomelanistic, Amelanistic, Microsacale, Genetic stripe, Sliverback, Citrus Tiger, Fancy,
The German giant is the biggest bearded dragon in the world with a size of 26 – 28 inches (66 – 71 cm).
The bearded dragon is one of the most popular exotic pets, you may find other interesting exotic pets below:
2. They’re smuggled out of Australia
All 8 bearded dragon species come from Australia. They are usually found in dry and subtropical environments such as deserts, savannas, grasslands, and forests. They are semi-arid and commonly live in fences and branches.
Pogona barbata is the only one that inhabits eastern Australia. It’s much stronger than other species due to the highly forested environments.
Australia fobidden the export of wild bearded dragons in the 1960s. However, the animals were initially brought to the United States in 1990 and quickly became the most popular exotic pet here. People believed that the creatures were smuggled out of Australia at that time.
Because of the breeding, domestic variations of the Australian lizard are now all over the world, except for Hawaii. It is estimated that over 900 spiked dragons live in zoos worldwide.
3. Their beards show their emotions
While they are commonly referred to as bearded dragons, these creatures do not have real beards like humans. Instead of that, they have beards made of spines. Both males and females have these scales around their necks.
This distinctive beard acts as a mood ring. It will turn black when the dragons are frightened, stressed, or excited. When they are peaceful and cheerful, their beard will have the same color as their body, and their spines will lie flat against the skin. It’s virtually soft to touch.
When performing mating calls, this beard will change into a dark color.
4. They love sunbathing and swimming
Lizards, including bearded dragons, are coldblooded. This means that their body heat depends on the surroundings’ temperature. That’s why they need to bask in the sun to take the heat and burrow underground when the heat is excessive.
They can sunbathe for up to 12 hours. The species usually climb trees and bask on branches. They also piled on top of one another to soak up more sunlight. Baking in the sun at a higher elevation than other bearded dragons or lying on top of the others is a sign of dominance.
Despite the fact that wild bearded dragons hardly face huge amounts of water, these creatures are excellent swimmers. However, not all bearded dragons like swimming.
They swim the way crocodiles do, moving their tail back and forth like a tiller. To float, bearded dragons would constantly blast air into themselves. They can hold their breath for 10 to 15 minutes when staying underwater.
The spike dragons also like digging and burying in the sand.
5. They can change color like chameleons
When talking about animals that can change color, the chameleon is top of mind for most people. However, bearded dragons also have this ability.
Their color shift is not as complex or colorful as that of chameleons. They can change the color of two specific sections of their body.
– The color changes in the back to regulate temperature. If a bearded dragon is cold, it will darken its scales to receive more heat and retain its perfect inner body temperature. When they get hot, their scales lighten to reflect rays and keep them from getting too hot.
– Color changes in the neck area are associated with social interactions.
6. They like their alone time
These reptiles are shy and solitary. They prefer to be alone and do well on their own. They only interact with other bearded dragons during breeding seasons. When mating is finished, they go back to their spaces alone. However, sometimes they can dwell in groups of one male and many females.
These animals enter a sort of hibernation known as brumation when winter comes. They hibernate for a few weeks or even a few months. In the northern hemisphere, the species begin brumating in November. However, in their natural habitat, the winter arrives in June.
They will feel lethargic, lack appetite, and start to sleep a lot. In this period, their metabolism, body temperature, and heart rate will all significantly reduce to preserve energy. This lizard is not entirely sleeping like a bear while brumating. They still wake up and take water to keep hydrated.
7. Bearded dragons can regrow their teeth
Unlike other reptiles, bearded dragons can’t drop their tail to run away. Their tails don’t grow back. Instead of that, they can regrow lost or missing teeth. This usually happens when they try to seize prey or shred food apart.
Bearded dragons are not the only reptile that can regenerate their teeth. But what makes them special is that both their monophyodont and polyphyodont teeth are on the same jawline. The dragons can only rebuild their polyphyodont front teeth. If the missing teeth are monophyodont, they will lose it forever.
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8. Fireflies and avocados are toxic to them
The creatures are not picky eaters. They can eat all kinds of insects, from soft-shelled insects to hard-shelled ones, such as crickets, beetles, locusts, and cockroaches. Some feed on small rodents (mice) or even lizards.
As omnivorous animals, their diet also includes foliage, fruit, and flowers. They can eat bananas, cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, carrots, apples, grapes, celery, kale, watermelon, etc.
They are, however, instinctively afraid of fireflies and avocados. Ingesting just one firefly can cause them dead. Toxins known as lucibufagins are found in fireflies and can have a fatal effect on their hearts.
Avocados contain high levels of oxalic acids, which can cause bearded dragons to become very sick and they can die. This fruit is also high in fat, which may lead them obese or overweight. Their lifespan will be shortened, especially for those in captivity.
These reptiles only eat once a day. The growing young will need more food than the adults.
In the wild, bearded dragons have their own manner of drinking water from occasional rain in the dry habitat. One of these methods of Pogona genus is to capture water on its own body. They stand on their hind legs, slope their head downward, and lap up the water as it drips down their face.
9. They can sleep while standing up
Bearded dragons are diurnal, they awake during the day and sleep at night. They have the unusual “ability” of sleeping standing. They can sleep like this because they can lock their rear legs and keep themselves erect. The beardies frequently use this sleep in this position when they are forced to sleep between rocks.
The capability allows them to stand and run on two legs. When running, their center of gravity shifts to the back. This makes them run faster and more agile. However, when they get enough speed, they are unable to hold their front legs on the ground and virtually ‘lift-off,’ continuing to race upright.
These creatures can run at human speeds. Their fastest speed is estimated to be 9 miles per hour.
10. Males can become females
The mating season of the creatures often occurs in the spring and summer. To attract females, male bearded dragons perform a flamboyant courtship ritual by beating their feet against the ground, flailing their arms, and bobbing their head. When mating, the males will approach the females and fiercely bite the back of their neck.
After mating, the females might deposit two or three distinct batches of 11 to 30 eggs. They can lay up to 9 clutches in a single year.
Females can do this because they have the rare capacity to store sperm in their genital tract. As long as the sperm is used during the same reproductive period, they can fertilize the eggs on their own. This permits the female to increase offspring while reducing engagement with a possibly aggressive male.
The female will experience the 55 – 75 day-gestation period. In incubation time, bearded dragon babies can switch their gender. If the temperature is particularly high, from 96.8oF and higher, a developing male can transform into a female. Not only can they reverse sex, but the females that were once males can give double eggs than the original females.
A newborn bearded dragon needs 3 days to hatch from its egg. It will have a size of 3 – 4 inches in length and weigh around 1 ounce. The juveniles are completely self-sufficient as soon as they hatch. They achieve sexual maturity between the ages of one and two years.
Like all lizards, the bearded dragon will go through the shedding process. Hatchlings will shed almost every week, juveniles shed every 6 – 8 weeks, while the adults only shed 1 – 2 times per year.
The life expectancy of the beardies is roughly 15 years. Their lifespan in captivity is a little longer. The oldest bearded dragon is Sebastian. This dragon died at the age of 18 years, in 2016.
11. They communicate with gesture
The spike dragons don’t make noise to communicate. Like humans, beardies wave to each other as a way to say hi. According to experts, a male would wave to a higher-ranking male to vow submission, whereas the ruling male would bow its head to establish its dominance.
When a spiked dragon slowly bobs its head and elevates one leg, it is indicating that it is not a danger to the others in the neighborhood. Females swing their arms to indicate that they were ready for courting, and males would respond with head bobbings.
The animals also wave to humans as an acknowledgment of our dominance. However, some say that this gesture is a stress mark on bearded dragons.
12. They have a third eye
On top of their head, you’ll find the third eye of bearded dragons. This third eye is often called parietal, pineal, or solar eye.
The eye has lens and retina like the other 2 eyes, however, it’s considerably smaller and lacks an iris. This solar eye is protected by a scale, instead of an eyelid. While their two regular eyes send signals to the optic center, the third eye provides data to the pineal gland in the brain.
Unlike the other two, the third eye of the spike dragon detects variations in light, heat, and shadow. This enables them to notice predators from above or sense seasonal changes.
Other reptiles and lizards, such as skinks, monitor lizards, and iguanas, also have a third eye.
13. They open their mouth to defend
These creatures have quite a few predators, including crocodiles, dingoes, snakes, goannas, and birds. An owl may get down and catch a bearded dragon basking on a branch. A dingo may also grab a sunning bearded dragon that is laying on a rock.
Despite having the fast speed, the species are still slower than some predators. To defend themselves, they will change their colors to blend into their surroundings. When frightened, they would elevate their chin, stretch their beard, and open their mouth widely to appear larger than they really are.
Their two eyes on the side of the head provide a wider field of vision, which gives them advantages when watching out for their opponents. If the reptiles detect a predator while sunbathing on a rock, they will crawl into a gap between rocks to hide.
Furthermore, their scales and prickly skin defend them against predators such as snakes and hawks.
14. They pee powder
One of the weirdest behaviors of this lizard is the way it pees. It doesn’t pee liquid like other animals, it excretes uric acid in a form of white powder (chalky paste) known as “urate.” This is because it originally comes from deserts, where their bodies store every drop of liquid.
It releases urates via a cloaca, the same hole where poops are expelled. This is why bearded dragons are regarded as almost-ideal pets.
15. They can pass salmonella to humans
Salmonella bacteria have been found in the digestive systems of reptiles. When they defecate, bacteria can move to their skin and ultimately to people in areas where the reptiles are frequently handled.
In the U.S., according to the CDC, the bearded dragon is a common source to transfer salmonella to humans. For instance, in June 2022, an outbreak in 26 states sickened 56 persons and hospitalized 19.
So be careful when getting a bearded dragon. You should choose reliable breeders.
16. They make good pets
As mentioned before, these spike dragons are one of the most common exotic pets in the world. The species are nearly ideal pets. Here are some reasons:
- Don’t make noise or pee liquid
- Intelligent and can be taught to walk on a leash
- Like to be held and be pet at the chin, head, or cheeks.
- Easy to feed and maintain
- Cute, friendly, and love to interact with people
Besides the pros, there are still some cons when keeping them as pets.
- They can transfer salmonella bacteria
- They can bite you when they’re hungry, insecure, excited, or annoyed). The bite is gonna hurt a little bit and your skin may be cut. But in general, it’s totally fine.
If you are a beginner, make sure you know how to take care of a bearded dragon. You can read the bearded dragon care guide here to know how to set up a terrarium for the spike dragon (tank size, substrate, temperature, humidity, lighting, heat lamp), to bath, to feed, to cure and protect them from common health issues (impaction, metabolic bone disease, mouth rot, scale rot, tail rot, etc).
You can easily buy these creatures online or from pet shops. Bearded dragon price varies from $40 to $1000, depending on the morphs and types. The enclosure and supplies will cost you around $50 – $500.