Bearded Dragon, Duke

A bearded dragon, Duke, enjoys the warm sun. Image taken at the San Francisco Zoo.

These friendly little lizards have an awesome temperament. It’s rare that I would recommend a herp as a pet, but if you can take care of them these lovely lizards are really fun to just hang out with, hence the title, lounge lizards.

This particular lizard shown above is Duke and he was the most awesome-est bearded dragon ever. My most memorable moment with him was when I was holding him for an “open house” at the San Francisco Zoo and he suddenly started to get squirmy, which was unusual for him. The guitarist from Green Day was enjoying our open house and he and some other folks came up to touch Duke and that was when Duke pooped in my hand. He did try to warn me first. Duke passed away not too long ago, and I really miss him. So this post is dedicated to my lost lizard friend, Duke.

Like many animals, bearded dragons have a plethora of ways to protect themselves from predators. The first is of course camouflage. Their coloration helps them to blend in, but it is also worth noting that their color changes for various reasons, including temperature control, as they get darker when they need to absorb more heat and lighter when they need to reflect heat. (And here we are wasting precious calories making our own heat! Ha!) If a beardie is spotted, the next thing it’ll do is try to intimidate a potential predator by puffing out the extra skin around its throat to make a big black beard and to make their soft spikes stick up to look sharp and threatening. If the predator is not fooled, the lizard still won’t give up- instead it’ll high-tail it out of there by getting up on its two hind legs and running. And last but not least, if the predator should catch the lizard by its tail, it can drop its tail and the nerve endings in the tail will make it twitch and hopefully keep the predator distracted while the rest of the lizard makes its getaway. This last defense though is a one time only tactic, as they don’t regenerate their tails like some other lizards will.

I also think its cool that bearded dragons communicate with each other using different gestures. If two bearded dragons are cruising along and they run into each other, one way they might say “hello, I’m the same species as you” is to walk up and lick each other.  They will sometimes wave one arm in big circles as well, which might also serve as a sign of submission. They are not usually aggressive towards each other (although they can have “ritualistic sparring matches.”) and so they can sometimes be housed together, allowing me to have the opportunity to take adorable pictures of them, like these:

Tully and Derby

Tully and Derby, bearded dragon brothers, making a lizard pile. Image taken at the San Francisco Zoo.

Tully and Derby again

More of Tully and Derby's lizard pile. Image taken at the San Francisco Zoo.