Hailing originally from the Australian outback, bearded dragons have risen drastically in popularity as pets, both in the home, in classrooms, and other educational facilities -- like Zoology! These animals are known for their placid nature, sociability, and big personalities. Bearded dragon keepers will likely tell you that their beardie knows what they want and how to get their human's attention in order to get it. They may be asking for food, attention, or some time to stretch their legs outside of their enclosure.
If you've ever visited us here at Zoology, then you probably got acquainted with our bearded dragon, Akatosh. He is well-known for his demanding antics, scratching or bumping the glass, demanding attention, or giving his keepers the stink-eye when his favorite foods aren't on the menu that day. Usually Akatosh just wants to come out and spend time with his adoring public. He scratches to come out and say hello to each and every tour group and has no qualms about being fussed over for hours.
Though very tolerant of people, bearded dragons are usually territory when it comes to other animals, often seeing them as a territorial threats. Bearded dragons will puff out their spiny beards to show off how big and tough they are to objects they perceive to be a threat. They will also inflate their beards for the purpose and courtship. This is often accompanied by head-bobbing as well.
Unfortunately, despite their popularity as pets, misinformation regarding this species in captivity is distressingly common. Bearded dragons, along with many other reptile species, require special lighting, consisting of heat and UVB lamps. The correct temperature assures that the dragon remains warm enough to carry out bodily functions, while UVB lighting allows them to synthesize vitamin D. Without UVB lighting, bearded dragons develop a condition known as Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). MBD is caused when an animal is not metabolizing enough vitamin D.
While keepers can supplement vitamins with supplements, vitamin D cannot be properly metabolized by many reptiles without UVB radiation. In nature, this light is given off naturally by the sun. It is the same type of light that is responsible for a tan or sunburn in humans. Without it, reptiles like the bearded dragon are unable to create enough of the vitamin D to sustain healthy bone structure. This results in the body taking those nutrients out of the animal's bones, compromising their integrity, in order to keep the animal alive. MBD can result in bone thinning and eventually fracturing throughout the body, which can quickly become too severe to treat outside of humane euthanasia by a licensed veterinarian.
Bearded dragons are endearing pets, however, they require a lot of research and equipment. Make sure that before you bring your new pet dragon home that you are equipped to meet its unique needs. With proper care, your bearded dragon will be a great friend for years to come.