Head bobbing, hand-waving, neck puffing, and so on… The bearded dragon, with a series of complex movements of the different parts of its body, is your best bet if you are keen on knowing how animals communicate using body language.
The term ‘bearded dragon’ is most often used for Central bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps), which isn’t surprising considering that this species is by far the most popular of the lot. In a broad sense, all the species belonging to genus Pogona, including the Lawson’s dragon (Pogona henrylawsoni), western bearded dragon (Pogona minor), and eastern bearded dragon (Pogona barbata), are known as ‘bearded dragons’ – a name which can be attributed to the presence of beard-like scales along their throat and neck.
Facts about the Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons are found throughout Australia. They have a wedge-shaped head, which appears larger than the rest of their body. Males can be identified by the presence of two hemipenal bulges on the stomach near the base of their tail. The pointed ridges can be seen along their flat bodies. Of the 8 identified species, 6 are highly recommended as pets because of their docile nature.
~ Bearded dragons belong to genus Pogona in the Agamidae family of lizards.
~ On an average, they measure somewhere around 13 to 24 inches and weigh 10 to 20 oz.
~ In the wild, they are found in arid deserts and woodlands.
~ They are cold-blooded animals, i.e. their body temperature changes with that of their surroundings.
~ They have a limited ability to change their colors. Softer colors reflect most of the sunlight, which helps them regulate their body temperature.
~ Whenever, they feel threatened or want to establish their territory, they flex muscles in the throat region and flare the scales along the throat, neck and head.
~ These lizards can run on their hind legs to get away from their predator. Although, this is slower than running on all four legs, it helps them to regulate their body temperature, by lifting their body off the hot ground and increasing the distance covered.
~ When interacting between themselves, these lizards resort to sign language, like head bobbing to show dominance and hand-waving for submission.
~ In captivity, they have a life expectancy of 7-10 years.
~ Because of the international ban on animal trading, bearded dragons that are sold in the USA and Great Britain are captive bred locally.
Habitat in Captivity
It is easy to provide a proper habitat for these creatures. An aquarium, with a lid, laid with the newspaper as the substrate (or any other digestible substrate) will do. You can also use Astroturf or carpet as the substrate. Avoid using gravel, wood shavings, pine shavings and potting soil laced with the fertilizers or insecticides as these can harm your pet. For an adult bearded dragon, a 60 gallon aquarium, and for hatchlings, a 20 gallon aquarium will suffice.
Wire cages are not advisable as they cannot trap the heat and at the same time, it increases the chances of injury to foot and mouth. Bearded dragons, being cold-blooded animals, prefer steady temperature, which can be provided by installing a heat source and/or a light source. If you are going to keep the dragon’s aquarium indoor, then install a ultra-violet light source, along with the visible light source. It is necessary to maintain the temperature in the range of 78-88 °F as this will promote proper digestion and overall pet health.
Bearded Dragon Care Guide
Care and maintenance includes cleaning its cage, insect bowl, water dish with a sanitizing solution, once a week. Once in a week, your bearded dragon will need a bath. This will not just keep it clean, but will also keep it well hydrated. If you have more than one dragons in the same enclosure, then, make sure that the biggest one is not keeping the rest away from the food and the heat source. Remove your small-sized pet, to some other enclosure.
Providing a balanced diet, is also a way of providing proper care. These creatures are omnivorous, and eat insects and vegetation. Insects like crickets and meal worms, can be included in their diet. Inclusion of food items, such as red leaf lettuce, carrots, collard greens, peas, squash, corn, will also be of some help. The bearded dragon may need supplementation in the form of calcium and vitamin D3. Although, they derive water from the food they eat, provide a dish of drinking water.
Most of the bearded dragons that are sold at the pet shops are bred in captivity. When buying one, you should look out for an active specimen; as lack of movement and mucus in eyes are telltale signs of health problems in these species.