Bearded Dragon

ORDER: Squamata

FAMILY: Agamidae

GENUS: Pogona

SPECIES: vitticeps

Mid-sized stocky agamid with prominent spines along its sides and a large, essentially triangular shaped head. Forming a sort of shield around the snout is a jaw pouch which, when swollen, looks like a beard. This wide ranging species has considerable geographic variation; its ground color varies from shades of brown, gray, and reddish-brown to bright orange. Coloration of the ventral surface ranges from pale to dark gray with white elongated spots edged laterally with black. Mature males have dark beards which become black at time of courtship and breeding. Adults can grow as large as ten inches in body length, two feet in total length. Males are larger than females.

Native to Central Australia with the preferred habitat semi-arid to arid woodlands. Time is spent both on the ground and in trees, bushes and on fence posts.

This lizard is omnivorous and consumes many types of insects, small vertebrates, and vegetation including fruits and flowers.

Sexual maturity is achieved at one to two years of age. Mature females typically lay clutches of eleven to sixteen oblong leathery eggs in early summer. The eggs are deposited in nests dug in sandy soil and the young hatch 3 months later.

Its bulky body and habit of basking allows it to store heat, so that it can operate at lower temperatures than other lizards. It can also survive higher temperatures for several hours, since it can regulate its temperature by evaporation.

When intimidated, they flatten their bodies and stand erect with mouth agape. The light-colored mouth lining, spines bordering the lower jaw and puffed-out blackish beard give a formidable appearance. This defensive display has earned these lizards the common name of "bearded dragon". Aggressiveness is shown through body movements when approaching other members of the group. The tip of the tail is slightly curved at the end and the head is bobbed in a rapid motion. Submission is demonstrated by rotating the arms in a full circular motion which looks like waving. Ritualistic sparring matches take place in which both are in flat postures, with beards and tails up and outward; they circle each other, biting at one another's tail, but usually no damage is done. Their ability to change shades from light to dark helps them to regulate body temperature. Color changes can also depend on emotional state, as well as be used for concealment when threatened. When injured, sick, or dying its back becomes black and its legs pale yellow. Australian desert lizards often make their escape by rising on their hind legs and running bipedally. They cannot run as fast as quadrapedally, but it is thought to be a matter of temperature control. They lift their bodies from the hot ground to counter-balance the heat they generate in running. This reduces the amount of heat they take in from the ground and increases the cooling airflow over their bodies.

1 Female. She is used in our Zoomobile and Education programs and is not viewable by the public.

Not considered endangered or threatened.


  1. Encyclopedia of Reptiles, Amphibians, and other Cold-Blooded Animals. Burton, Maurice. 1975. Octopus Books Ltd, PP 160-161.
  2. "The Inland Bearded Dragon", The Vivarium, Vol. 4, No. 5., Mar/Apr 1993.
  3. "The Social Life of Bearded Dragons". Zoonooz, June/July, 1995. San Diego Zoo.