bearded dragon

Central Bearded Dragon

Central (or Inland) Bearded Dragon are common names for the species Pogona vitticeps, a type of agamid lizard occurring in arid regions of Australia.

Description

Adult central bearded dragons usually grow to be about 2 feet in length, with the tail accounting for over half of the total body length. Females are typically smaller than the males, have smaller heads, and thinner legs and tails. Bearded dragons come in a wide variety of colors, including brown, grey, reddish-brown, green, and even orange. They are capable of undergoing very slight changes in the shade of their color to help regulate temperature. The specialized scales along both sides of the throat, neck, and head form many narrow spines which run down the side of the body to the tail. When feeling threatened a bearded dragon will flatten its body against the ground, puff out its spiny throat, and open its jaws to make itself appear larger. The bearded dragon is so named because of the spiny throat projections appear similar to a human beard. Males typically have a darker "beard" than females, and during mating season and courtship the "beard" will typically darken to near-black. The bearded dragon, like most agamid lizards, has strong legs which enable it to lift its body completely off the ground while it moves. This is done to reduce the heat taken in from the ground, as well as to increase the air-flow over the belly to itself further.

Ecology and behavior

The central bearded dragon is native to the semi-arid to and arid woodlands and rocky desert regions of Central Australia. They are skilled climbers, and often spend just as much time perching on tree limbs, fenceposts, and in bushes than they do on the ground. They spend much of the morning and evening sunning themselves on top of an exposed branch or rock where they bask. They are diurnal, but like most desert animals they spend the hottest parts of the day hiding in underground burrows or any other cool hiding spot removed from direct sunlight.

Bearded dragons do not generally make sounds however when threatened make a hissing sound similar to a cat. Instead they use actions, positions and colour displays to communicate.

Arm waving is used mainly by young dragons and seems to be a signal to recognise the presence of another dragon. This action is not often used by adults.

Basking position is used to signal dominance. The dominant animal will choose the best basking spot, often climbing over other Bearded Dragons to get there.

There are several different kinds of head bob gesture. These are: Slow bowing motion - often used by adult females to signal submission to a male. Fast bob - often used by males as well as a black beard to signal dominance. Violent bob - used by males just before mating. Often this action will shift the lizard's entire body. Gravid females will often refuse the advances of a male by chasing him and lying on his back.

Diet

Central bearded dragons are omnivorous feeding on insects, other invertebrates, and are known to sometimes eat small vertebrates, such as mice, as well. They also tend to eat more soft plant matter (such as green leaves, fruits and vegetables, and flowers) as they mature. They gain much of the moisture they need from their food.

Reproduction

Central bearded dragons reach full sexual maturity around 18 months of age. Males will become very aggressive towards each other and will assert their dominance by inflating their beards and through fast head bobbing. Breeding typically occurs in the early spring Females will lay a clutch of eleven to thirty oblong-shaped eggs in a shallow nest dug in the sand. After being laid the eggs are buried and are left unattended. The eggs will hatch approximately 60 to 80 days later depending on the incubation temperature. In captivity, they can be incubated in a styrofoam fish box, but without a male lizard the eggs the female lay will not be fertile. However a female bearded dragon can retain sperm, and thus produce fertile eggs even after being separated from a male.

Bearded Dragon courtship involves the male "head bobbing" to display dominance. If the female displays submissive behavior the male will use its mouth to grab the back of the females head and the male will also wrap its front legs around the females upper torso to keep her from moving. Copulation and insemination doesn't take very long. The gestation period averages about a month and a half.

Captive breeding

Central Bearded dragons are used as pets and exhibited in zoos. Several of the Pogona genus are bred in captivity as pets, the two most popular are this species, Pogona vitticeps, and the Western Bearded Dragon (Pogona minor subspecies). Pet Bearded Dragons world wide are threatened by Agamid adenovirus, a virus that when showing symptoms compromises the immune system of the dragon, and leads to death from other diseases, however majority of the infections are sub-clinical. Sub-clinically infected animals show no signs themselves but are active carriers of the disease and will infect other Bearded Dragons.

When the female is ready to lay eggs she will generally stop eating and spend most of her time trying to dig.

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References

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