Bearded dragons are medium-sized lizards with broad, triangle-shaped heads, rounded bodies with short legs, and long tails. Body coloration and pattern among individuals is highly variable. Their bodies are covered with spiny scales, which includes a spikey, expandable throat pouch called a “beard” located under their chins. Beards are present in both males and females.
Adult bearded dragons reach 15.5-23 inches (39.4-58.4 cm) in length and usually weigh 10-18 ounces (283.5-510.3 g). Males are typically larger than females.
Bearded dragons live in habitats where food can be difficult to find, so they are opportunistic feeders, consuming whatever they can find. In the wild, their diet consists of leaves, flowers, fruit, and small animals such as insects, other lizards, and rodents. At Cosley Zoo, the bearded dragon eats a variety of dark greens, vegetables, fruits, crickets, mealworms, and pinkie mice. She also receives a multivitamin supplement.
Males have a very showy courtship ritual used to attract females. The ritual may involve pounding their feet on the ground, waving their arms, and bobbing their heads. Mating occurs during Australia’s spring and summer, between September and March. Females can store sperm for extended periods of time, allowing them to lay two separate clutches of up to 27 eggs from a single mating. Incubation temperature can determine the sex of embryos: eggs containing embryos with male chromosomes will instead develop as females if the environmental temperatures are higher than usual. The eggs hatch after an incubation period of 67-80 days.
In the wild, bearded dragons are found across most of Australia, in habitats with warm and arid climates such as deserts, subtropical woodlands, savannas, and scrublands. They bask in the sun to warm themselves and can burrow underground to avoid extreme heat or predators. Bearded dragons are semi-arboreal and are often found on fence posts and tree branches.
Bearded dragons have a lifespan of 4 to 10 years.
In bearded dragons’ native range, introduced predators, such as foxes and domestic cats, are a major threat to populations. In the 1960s, Australia banned the export of wild bearded dragons to better protect the existing populations. Although their export is still banned, there is a large captive bred population, and they are becoming increasingly popular as pets in the United States. Domesticated bearded dragons come in a variety of color morphs not commonly found in the wild.