When you think of a bearded dragon you are probably thinking about a central bearded dragon. The central bearded dragon is the mid-sized species most people keep in the pet trade. There are, however a variety of other bearded dragon species within the genus of Pagona, under which the bearded dragon is classified.
Learn about your central bearded dragon’s extended family. Discover the one other bearded dragon species which you can keep outside of Australia. Learn about the general characteristics of the Pogona genus. Discover the striking eastern bearded dragon and the little-known Kimberly and dwarf bearded dragons.
Bearded dragons are part of the Pogona genus. Learn some general characteristics about this genus as well as how individual species within it differ from one another.
Eastern bearded dragons are some of the most dramatic of the bearded dragon species. Discovered this fascinating and striking species. Find out why it is a little bit too much lizard for most keepers.
The Rankin’s dragon is the only other species of bearded dragon that is available in the American pet trade. There are many reports of genetic deficiencies in the lines of Rankin’s Dragon available in America. This is because they came from a very small genetic pool of bearded dragons. Learn why these little dragons have such fierce enthusiasts and discover some tips on finding a healthy one if you’re interested.
The Kimberly bearded dragon and the dwarf dragon have relatively little known about them in captivity. Don’t mistake the dwarf bearded dragon with the Rankin’s dragon. Although they are both small, they are distinctly different species.
Finally, get a recap of your beloved central bearded dragon and a discussion of why it is the chosen species for the pet trade.
Lizards that are classified in this genus tend to have triangular heads. They have wide, broad bodies that have a tendency to flatten. Spiny scales grow in rows and clusters down the back and over the rest of the body. Exactly where and how spines grow varies by species. These lizards expand their throat when they are scared or when they want to look bigger. Some species also have brightly colored mouths, which they open to intimidate predators.
All species of bearded dragons wave their hands to show submission and bob their heads to show dominance. Like many types of lizard, they change colors slightly for a variety of reasons. Species vary in how much aggression they show towards one another and towards people.
All bearded dragons come from Australia, but the various species come from all over Australia. Some species overlap slightly, but for the most part, different species occur in different parts and environments of the continent.
There’s a great deal of variety of species of this genus. Dragons vary dramatically in size, color, and behavior. While they may have all started out with a common ancestor, these dragons have developed very different tactics for surviving.
Some species of bearded dragons are highly social, choosing to live in groups and rarely fighting amongst themselves. Other bearded dragon species are very aggressive, both towards one another and towards humans.
There are good reasons why the central bearded dragon is the most popular in the pet trade, but it is fascinating to examine the characteristics of other bearded dragon species as well. Learning about other species is enlightening to your experience with your own dragon.
Eastern bearded dragon
The Eastern bearded dragon is one of the most impressive of all the bearded dragon species. These dragons have striking color patterns, are very large, and tend to be aggressive. Early collectors doubtless met these aggressive dragons with their bright yellow mouths hissing at them and decided to go elsewhere to find America’s next favorite pet.
The Eastern bearded dragon tends to live in wooded areas. These are large lizards, with males growing up to two feet and females averaging about four inches shorter than that. These lizards have a very impressive beard which can be even more impressive in certain groups. These groups have long spiny scales at the back of the head in the corners of the mouth, as well as along the abdomen. Certain individuals really do look like some kind of dragon.
Eastern bearded dragons are usually gray or black but might also be red or brown or yellow. Young Eastern bearded dragon have striking patterns that may or may not fade completely as they get older.
These dragons have a soft blue, green, or yellow tinge on the front of their head, like an armored plate. They are yellow or orange on the sides of the abdomen and on their legs. The inside of the mouth is a striking bright yellow color. When something threatens the dragon or it wants to appear threatening, it will turn dark, expand its black beard, and open its mouth to show the bright yellow color.
This dragon is most common in eastern Australia but people find it throughout Central Australia and even to the West Coast.
These dragons are significantly more aggressive than Central bearded dragons. This may point to why no one chose them for the pet trade. The male only lets females and juvenile dragons into his territory. Eastern bearded dragons, especially male, are more likely to act aggressively and show their beard to humans than run away.
Rankin’s Dragon is native to the Queensland region of Australia. It is similar in appearance to the central bearded dragon. Rankin’s dragons are about half the length of the central bearded dragon. They are only about a foot from the tip of the tail to the tip of the snout. They have a markedly snubbed and shorter nose, giving the dragon a rather cute appearance.
Rankin’s Dragon are rare in the pet trade, but not impossible to find. They are certainly not as well-known or popular as the central bearded dragon. They have affable and charming personalities and because they are significantly smaller they can be kept comfortably in smaller enclosures.
Rankin’s dragons are also popular in captivity because they are very tolerant of one another. In large enclosures you can even house multiple males safely together. Usually, only zoos can do this safely. It is easy to breed these dragons. Few were exported before exportation became illegal in Australia so it is difficult to find a variable breeding pool. Birth defects are common in many American lines of Rankin’s dragon.
Birth defects in captive Rankin’s dragons may not be immediately evident, so they may not rule out potential breeding stock, worsening the line. Some lines certainly do exist with healthy breeding stock, but finding genetic diversity is diffiuclt for all American breeders. In general Rankin’s dragons in captivity may have a shorter lifespan due to internal genetic defects. Rankin’s also seem to have a problem with cancer in captivity.
These smaller dragons are somewhat more nimble than the central bearded dragon, so they may enjoy more challenging decor. Be careful not to provide any climbing areas where a dragon may fall off and hurt itself.
Kimberley bearded dragon
This bearded dragon is unknown in the pet trade and relatively little researched in the wild. There are some pictures documented and it is a firmly distinct species, but we don’t know much about it. These dragons are relatively large, although not as large as a central bearded dragon. They have small narrow heads and flattened bodies. They can be distinguished from the central bearded dragon by the three to five rows of spines that are quite large instead of a single row of small spines along the angle of the body.
Dwarf Bearded Dragon
The dwarf bearded dragon is significantly smaller than most other bearded dragon species. This dragon has sharp markings and a striking pattern that makes it look quite different than other dragons. These dragons have smaller heads than the central bearded dragons and spines arranged underneath them and on their neck in a way that central bearded dragons don’t have. These versatile dragons can live in a range of different environment from desert to scrub to forest. Two distinct subspecies have recently been clarified into two distinct species, the western bearded dragon and the northwest bearded dragon.
Central Bearded Dragon
Central bearded dragons are the ones most of us know and love in the pet trade. Even in the wild, these dragons are good-natured, easygoing, and unlikely to express fear or aggression to people. This is probably the fact that has won them their place in the pet trade, along with their relative ease of care and medium-size.
These dragons grow to about 60 cm from nose to tail. Deliberate breeding has created a wide variety of morphs, including German bearded dragons, which are significantly larger than wild dragons.
A wide range of color and scale morphs make central bearded dragons in captivity today look vastly different than the original wild dragon.
Central bearded dragons are still common throughout the eastern coast of Australia and inland. They prefer territory that is semi-arid, including rocky desert, shrubland, grasslands, and scarce woods. Young dragons spend a lot of time climbing in shrubbery, whereas adult dragons alternate between low and fallen branch and the ground.
In the wild, central bearded dragons are highly opportunistic, eating primarily vegetable matter as they find it but also taking insects and small mammals and birds when possible.
Central bearded dragons are not the most social with one another of bearded dragon species, but neither are they particularly antisocial or aggressive. Bearded dragons have a range of social displays that they use to communicate with one another to declare dominance and submission and avoid fights.
Why Central Bearded Dragons?
During a relatively brief span of time people exported reptiles and amphibians from Australia for the pet trade. Why did they choose central bearded dragons of all the Pogona species? Are you longing for one of the other species of bearded dragon and wondering you can only get the central bearded dragon easily? Here are some reasons.
Central bearded dragons have the most friendly behavior towards humans of all the bearded dragon species. In fact, central bearded dragons are much more friendly with humans than most reptiles overall. We can tame wild animals and develop domestication in captivity. That said, it is much easier to start with an animal that is already comfortable with the presence of humans when choosing a new pet species.
It doesn’t stress central bearded dragons for people to handle or stare at them. This means they are much happier and healthier in captivity than reptiles that are more stressed by the presence of humans. This means that central bearded dragons not only survive but thrive as pets. They seem to truly enjoy human company and time outside of their cage. Oher bearded dragon species or most reptiles in general do not do this.
Central bearded dragons grow large enough to be impressive and sturdy when handled. They are not, however, so large that they are difficult to handle, dangerous, or hard to keep in food. The medium size of central bearded dragons makes them an attractive choice for people who want a pet that they can hold. They are also a good choise for those who don’t want to have to provide an entire room within their house to give their new pet enough room.
Central bearded dragons aren’t picky eaters. All bearded dragons eat varied diets, but central bearded dragons take most offerings as they get older. Furthermore, central bearded dragons are unusually willing to eat prepared foods and dried foods like dried mealworms and crickets. Some central bearded dragons can be maintained entirely without fresh foods, which is very unusual among lizards.
What If I Want a Bearded Dragon Species Other Than the Central Bearded Dragon?
The Rankin’s bearded dragon is also available in captivity, although as discussed above, potential owners and especially potential breeder should be aware of the potential for genetic problems with captive-bred Rankin’s bearded dragons in the US. If you are dedicated to establishing a healthy breeding population of Rankin’s bearded dragons import a dragon from the UK. Rankin’s appear to be more popular in the UK than they are in the U.S. Dragons from there will have a different genetic gene pool, lending diversity to your breed pool. This may increase the health of Rankin’s bearded dragons available in the pet trade in the US over time.
Be sure that you buy from a certified breeder and see pictures of the parents. Irresponsible breeders sell small, malnourished, and otherwise sickly central bearded dragons as dwarf or Rankin’s bearded dragons. Look for the stub nose and distinct markings and spine pattern that indicate a true Rankin’s.
If someone tells you that you are buying a Rankin’s bearded dragon with a color morph, go somewhere else. There are no color morphs in Rankin’s dragons as of yet.
Move to Australia
You are strictly prohibited from exporting reptiles from Australia. Unless you buy a Rankin’s or a central bearded dragon you are unlikely to get one. Some zoos and other organizations display other species of bearded dragons outside of Australia. Individual owners, however, are unlikely to get their hands on one.
Australians who happen to catch one of these other species sometimes report them being interesting pets. For most pet owners, the central bearded dragon will satisfy. If you want something different, seek out a healthy Rankin’s or look into another species group, like agamas.
Central bearded dragons have become one of the most popular reptiles in the pet trade. There are a number of reasons why they are so popular. Many pet owners might wonder if other members of their genus would also be pleasant pets. In fact, most keepers do find that Rankin’s bearded dragons are lovely pets. Rankin’s bearded dragons are especially charming for people who want to keep colonies of bearded dragons or who don’t have enough room for a central bearded dragon. It might be hard finding a Rankin’s bearded dragon that is from a healthy breeding line. If you are dedicated to this pursuit it is possible for you to make a meaningful contribution to the American pet trade.
If you would rather stick with the good old Central bearded dragon, there are plenty of fascinating morphs to choose from. You can produce your own breeding program with bearded dragons of your color and pattern choice and amplify the traits that you find most appealing. By focusing on this one species of bearded dragon we have created dozens of breeds with predictable traits that look almost like their own species.