Classification and Range
Bearded dragons belong to the Old World family of lizards, Agamidae. Together they are members of the genus Pogona, a group of terrestrial and semiarboreal lizards found throughout most parts of Australia and New Guinea. There are seven species of bearded dragons: inland or central (Pogona vitticeps), common (Pogona barbata), (Pogona microlepidota) [no common name], western (Pogona minima), dwarf (Pogona minor), northwest (Pogona mitchelli) and Nullarbor (Pogona nullarbor). They range through nearly all of Australia except the extreme north.
Inland bearded dragons inhabit areas from open woodlands to arid scrub and desert regions located in Australia’s interior. They spend a good deal of time perched on bushes, logs, rocks and structures like fence posts, scanning their territories for food and other bearded dragons. They bask in the sun during mornings and afternoons.
Length and Weight
Inland bearded dragons average 18-22 inches (46-56 cm) from snout to tip of tail. Average weight is about 10-18 ounces (283-510 gr). Males are generally larger than females. Although smaller in overall size, however, females are more stockier than males.
Estimated 4-10 years
In the wild:Inland bearded dragons are omnivorous, and eat a variety of animal and plant materials. These include insects and other small animals they can overpower, plus occasionally fruits, leaves and flowers. At the zoo: Meal worms, crickets and greens. Supplemented with vitamin/mineral powder.
Inland bearded dragons reach sexual maturity at 1 to 2 years of age. During courtship, a male will indicate his interest by rapidly bobbing his head. If the female is receptive to the male's overture, she will begin to bob her head, but at a slower rate. During copulation, a male's throat area “- beard”will visibly darken to nearly black, while a female's throat darkens to a lesser extent.
Females normally lay clutches of 15-25 eggs in shallow nests dug into sandy soil. Hatchlings weigh about .07 ounces (2 gr) at birth and average 4 inches (10 cm) in length. Young usually grow rapidly and gain adult size within a year.
Inland bearded dragons live in harsh environments and are well adapted to eat whatever food is available. During lean seasons, they survive on nutrients and fat reserves stored in their large abdomens. If required, they will dig into the ground and remain dormant for long periods of time until unfavorable conditions, such as unusually hot or cold weather, improve.
Inland bearded dragons have broad, triangular (arrow-shaped) heads, varying size body scales and rather short tails. Males have a much broader head than females. The beard”in its name comes from the flared-out throat that looks like a beard. Scales along the side of their head, throat and side of their bodies have evolved into rather soft spines.
Coloration varies among the different races of the inland bearded dragons, from uniform tan to chocolate brown. The male's’beard tends to be darker than the females. They may have a variety of chevron patterns down their backs, and different hues to the head, throat and tail.
Dragons That Wave!
Juvenile inland bearded dragons express subservience toward larger, more aggressive inland bearded dragons by standing on three legs and waving their other limb in slow circles, bring it down and doing the same with the other leg. Males normally discontinue arm-waving as they reach maturity, but females will continue to wave” toward aggressive males during the breeding season and while copulating.
When threatened by another inland bearded dragon or a possible predator, an inland bearded dragon will challenge the intruder by head-bobbing, flattening outs its body, flaring out its throat and displaying the colorful lining of its gaping mouth. During combat, two inland bearded dragons will circle one another, mouths open, hissing and trying to bite the other's tail to drive away intruders.
Location at the Zoo
Inland bearded dragons can be seen in a large exhibit at Woodland Park Zoo's Day Exhibit. They share their quarters with the unusual and interesting shingleback and blue-tongued skinks.
Most inland bearded dragons in captivity are descended from lizards illegally exported from Australia and smuggled into the United States or Europe during the 1980s (Australia does not permit commercial export of its wildlife). Woodland Park Zoo first received inland bearded dragons from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nine lizards that were seized when they were found being smuggled into the United States via international mail.
In spite of their ancestors’likely illegal entry, inland bearded dragons and other captive-bred reptiles are better choices as pets since they did not have to be taken from the wild, impacting natural populations. Inland bearded dragons are the most readily available and popular bearded lizard, due to their gentle disposition and tolerance for handling. Most inland bearded dragons owned as pets are captive-bred. This cannot be said, however, for many wild reptile species. Many species of snakes, lizards, crocodiles and turtles are removed from the wild for the pet trade or are killed to make products for sale. As a result, many reptiles are endangered or are declining rapidly.
How You Can Help!
The effort to save endangered species requires cooperation and support at the international, national, regional and individual levels. You can help in this cause. Join and become active in Woodland Park Zoo and other conservation organizations of your choice. Don't buy products made from wild animal parts and buy only captive-bred reptiles as pets.
Contact Woodland Park Zoo at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out other ways you can support conservation programs at the zoo. Discover more about lizards and other reptiles by contacting the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles at 303 W. 39th St., PO Box 626, Hays, KS 67601. Learn other ways you can help conserve wildlife and the habitats they require for survival by visiting our How You Can Help page.
Reptiles as Pets
We do not recommend reptiles as pets for most people as they require very specialized diets and environments. We also receive hundreds of requests each year to take former pet iguanas, boas and other reptiles but we cannot accept these due to space, health and unknown backgrounds. If you need to find a reptile or amphibian a new home, we suggest you contact a local herpetological group in your area.
In the Puget Sound region, it is the Pacific Northwest Herpetological Society.
Sources and Suggested Reading
Cogger, Harold G. 1992. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY. 775 p.
Vosjoli, Philippe de and Robert Mailloux. 1993. The General Care and Maintenance of Bearded Dragons. Advanced Vivarium Systems, Inc., Lakeside, CA. 63 p.
Matero, Robert. 1993. Reptiles (Eyes on Nature Series). Kidsbooks, Inc., Chicago, IL. 29 p.