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Bearded Dragons as Pets

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Bearded Dragon

Lianne McLeod
Popular as pets, bearded dragons or "beardies" are moderately sized lizards native to Australia. While they are generally considered good pets even for beginner reptile owners, they do have fairly complex nutritional and environmental requirements so need special equipment and a fair amount of time to care for properly. However, they are social and easy to tame and handle, and show a range of fascinating behaviors that make them interesting to watch.

Although several other species are becoming available to the pet trade, the most commonly available variety is the central or inland bearded dragon, Pogona vitticeps. This species is native to arid, rocky areas of Australia, and is typically tan/brown in coloration (several color morphs are also available). Their name is derived from the spines that line their throats. These spines usually lie flat but if the dragon feels threatened the throat is expanded causing the spines to stand up, making the dragon look more intimidating (especially combined with their tendency to flatten their bodies to appear wider). However, bearded dragons are generally docile, and their aggressive displays are rarely seen in captivity. They are noted for an endearing greeting behavior, in which they lift their front leg in an almost circular motion, so it looks like they are waving.

Virtually all bearded dragons available in America are captive bred, as Australia has strict laws against exportation of its wildlife. With an adult size of 18-24 inches (reached by about 2 years of age), a good sized tank/cage will be required. The expected life span of a bearded dragon is probably around 10 years when cared for properly, although longer life spans have been reported.

Next: Housing Bearded Dragons

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