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February 2024’s Animal Of The Month – Bearded Dragons

By February 29, 2024 No Comments

After helping us usher in the Year of the Dragon, our Animal of the Month for February – the bearded dragon – is leaping out of the spotlight today on Leap Day. If you have been following us on Threads and/or on the social media site formerly known as Twitter (and now called “X”), we hope you enjoyed our posts all month long about these popular reptiles. But if you happened to miss any of our posts, you can find a summary right here. Did you know?:

  • Bearded dragons have eight species among their ranks with all of them originating from Australia.
  • But one species, the Central bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps), is most often kept in captivity and the one we will focus on this month. This species is also known as the Inland bearded dragon.
  • Bearded dragons are not known for being an invasive species in countries outside of Australia.
  • But according to the Early Detection Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS) there is a reported feral population of bearded dragons in Florida as a result of escaped and deliberately released pets.
  • And in recent years, there have been occasional reports of bearded dragons being captured in Hawaii where it is illegal to either transport or keep them in captivity in order to protect local ecosystems.
  • Individuals caught keeping a bearded dragon in captivity in Hawaii can be fined up to $200,000 and spend up to three years in prison.
  • True to their name, Central (or Inland) bearded dragons in the wild are found in central and east-central Australia.
  • Central bearded dragons are found in a wide variety of habitats ranging from semi-desert, rocky desert, scrublands, semi-arid woodlands and hummock grasslands (areas characterized by grasses that form mounds).
  • One of the hallmarks of February is Valentine’s Day and bearded dragons are in the mood for love. That’s because Valentine’s Day falls within their mating season in the wild.
  • Bearded dragons in the wild will mate between September and March, which are the months that fall within Australia’s spring and summer.
  • But any possibility of romance between bearded dragons is non-existent as they are solitary by nature. After the male successfully wards off rivals, he will mate with a willing female and they will part ways after their short copulation.
  • Female bearded dragons are capable of storing sperm and laying several separate clutches of eggs from just one mating. Each clutch will consist of 11-30 eggs.
  • In a sheltered sandy area, the female bearded dragon will dig a shallow nest, lay her eggs and bury them. After that, the eggs are on their own as she will leave them and not return.
  • Depending on the temperature, it will take the eggs anywhere from about 60 to 80 days hatch.
  • While adult bearded dragons are semi-arboreal, meaning they split their time between the ground and being in trees, juveniles are fully arboreal until they reach maturity at between 1-2 years of age.
  • Bearded dragons are considered to be small-to-medium-sized lizards. Including their tails, healthy adults can grow to a length of between 18-22 inches (45-56 cm).
  • Bearded dragons have rounded stout flat bodies which have spines running laterally along each side. Their tails are long and tapered.
  • As their name suggests, the broad triangular heads of bearded dragons feature a “beard” of spines. It is actually a throat pouch that can expand and is used for communication.
  • In the wild, the colour of the bearded dragon depends on the type of soil in the habitat in which they live. They can sport brown, tan, reddish, a golden colour or a combination of those colours.
  • While bearded dragons may be solitary and territorial creatures, in captivity they can be friendly, gentle and social with the humans in their family.
  • Bearded dragons are affectionately called beardies by their human family members and reptile enthusiasts.
  • Bearded dragons are generally not known for being picky eaters. That’s because in the wild they live in areas where food can be scarce so they eat whatever they can.
  • As opportunistic omnivores, wild bearded dragons will eat a wide variety of food; including (but not limited to) insects, leaves and flowers. Their stomachs are also large enough to accommodate small reptiles and rodents.
  • As for who eats wild bearded dragons, their predators include monitor lizards (a.k.a. goannas), gull-billed terns (Gelochelidon nilotica), birds of prey, Dingoes, black-headed pythons (Aspidites melanocephalus) and other snakes.
  • Feral cats and foxes, which were both introduced and are invasive in Australia, are also bearded dragon predators.
  • While listed as a species of “least concern” on the IUCN Red List (meaning, they are not considered to be a threatened species) bearded dragons face threats from humans through habitat loss and poaching.
  • Central bearded dragons are a protected species in Australia. In the 1960’s, their export was banned. A permit is also required to keep them in captivity in most parts of the country.
  • Bearded dragons will hiss if they are feeling threatened, but that’s the extent of their vocalizations. Body language makes up the bulk of their communication style.
  • Another way bearded dragons react when they are feeling threatened is by quickly inhaling air to expand their body size in order to appear larger to predators.
  • Bearded dragons will also respond to threats by opening their mouths and puffing up their beards to make themselves appear bigger. Their beard will also turn black.
  • Male bearded dragons will also change their beard colour to black and bob their heads when signaling dominance to other males in disputes over food, territory and/or while competing for females.
  • Another unique way bearded dragons communicate is through arm waving, which can signal submission, a willingness to mate (females only) or acknowledgment and recognition.
  • Did you know that bearded dragons are venomous? In 2005, University of Melbourne researchers discovered that bearded dragons can produce a mild venom.
  • The venom is harmless to humans and most other animals and is believed to be a vestigial trait, which means it had more importance to the survival of the bearded dragon’s ancestors but doesn’t have much purpose today.
  • Bearded dragons are diurnal, meaning they are active primarily during the day. Much of their days are spent basking in the sun in order to regulate their body temperature and stay healthy.
  • Researchers from the University of Melbourne recently discovered that bearded dragons can change the colour on their backs in order to bask more efficiently during the high-energy breeding season.
  • The researchers looked at a small group of wild Central bearded dragons and found that they could darken the colour on their backs when the weather was cooler.
  • The darker colour on their backs allows bearded dragons to absorb more sunlight, which heats their bodies faster than if their backs were a lighter colour that is more reflective of light.
  • The researchers suggest this ability to change the colour on their backs could save the bearded dragons about 85 hours of basking time.
  • This year is a leap year so what better day than February 29th to post about the bearded dragon’s ability to jump?
  • Bearded dragons tend to jump down from things much more often than jumping up onto a higher surface level.
  • Why do bearded dragons jump? Nobody really knows for sure. But theories range from being active and playful to catching prey to being stressed, uncomfortable or ill.

This is the second time we have featured bearded dragons as our Animal of the Month. The first time was way back in November 2014 so drop on by and see what we posted about beardies the first time around!

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