Do Bearded Dragons Have a Third Eye: Exploring the Myth and Science Behind This Claim

Yes, bearded dragons possess a third eye. It is called the parietal eye, which is a unique feature that sets bearded dragons apart from other reptiles. It is located on the top of the bearded dragon’s head and is visible as a small, circular scale with a slightly different texture and color than the surrounding scales.

The third eye is not a real eye but a specialized light-sensing organ that regulates the bearded dragon’s circadian rhythm and thermoregulation. It is also thought to play a role in detecting predators from above.

Understanding the Bearded Dragon’s Third Eye

What It Is

The parietal eye, also known as the third eye, is a specialized light-sensing organ found in some reptiles, including bearded dragons. It is connected to the brain via the pineal gland, which produces and releases hormones that regulate various bodily functions, including sleep, appetite, and reproduction. 

In reptiles, the pineal gland is often larger than in other animals and is thought to be more active in regulating their physiology. The third eye is highly sensitive to changes in light intensity and can detect even very subtle changes in ambient light. 

When light levels are low at night, the third eye signals the pineal gland to increase melatonin production, promoting sleep. The third eye is highly sensitive to infrared radiation, which allows the bearded dragon to detect heat sources and adjust its body position and behavior to maintain an optimal body temperature.

Its Importance

The parietal eye serves several functions in bearded dragons. First and foremost, it regulates the animal’s circadian rhythm or internal biological clock. The parietal eye is highly sensitive to changes in ambient light, and it can detect even subtle differences in light intensity. 

This sensitivity allows the bearded dragon to accurately sense the time of day and adjust its behavior and physiology accordingly. For example, during the day, the third eye senses bright light and signals the pineal gland to suppress melatonin production, promoting wakefulness. 

The parietal eye also plays a role in thermoregulation. Bearded dragons are ectothermic, relying on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature. The parietal eye is highly sensitive to infrared radiation, which allows the bearded dragon to detect heat sources and maintain an optimal body temperature.

In addition to regulating circadian rhythms and thermoregulation, the parietal eye may also play a role in predator detection. The parietal eye is thought to be more sensitive to light than the two eyes on the sides of the bearded dragon’s head, allowing the animal to detect predators approaching from above.

When a predator is approaching, the bearded dragon may tilt its head up and orient its body toward the source of the threat. This allows the parietal eye to have a clear view of the predator, and the bearded dragon can use this information to decide how to respond.

Shocking Facts About Bearded Dragons Other Than Its Third Eye

Beard Display

Bearded dragons have a unique ability to puff out their beards and change the skin color on their throats as a defensive display. This display is commonly known as the “beard display” or “beard puffing,” Which is used to deter potential predators or rivals.

When a bearded dragon is threatened or agitated, it will flatten its body and try to make it look larger. It will then open its mouth and hiss, which can be intimidating. If the threat persists, the bearded dragon will puff out its beard by inflating a series of muscles in the throat region.

As the beard expands, the skin on the throat will change, turning black or dark brown. This is due to melanin, a pigment responsible for the darker coloration. The contrast between the darkened skin and the light-colored scales of the bearded dragon’s body creates a striking and intimidating display that can startle predators or rivals and discourage them from attacking.

In addition to its visual effect, the beard display may be accompanied by vocalizations such as a low, rumbling growl or hiss. The bearded dragon’s respiratory system produces these sounds and can add to the intimidation factor of the display.

It’s important to note that the beard display is not a sign of aggression but rather a defensive behavior. Bearded dragons are generally peaceful animals that prefer to avoid conflict if possible. However, if threatened or cornered, they may use the beard display as self-defense.

Color Changing

Bearded dragons are known for their ability to change color, which they use for various purposes, including communication, thermoregulation, and camouflage. One of the most common reasons for color changes in bearded dragons is to regulate body temperature. 

When a bearded dragon is basking in the sun and trying to warm up, its skin will become darker to absorb more heat from the sun’s rays. Conversely, when a bearded dragon tries to cool down, it may become lighter in color to reflect more of the sun’s heat.

I have also noticed that my bearded dragons change color to communicate. For example, during the breeding season, males may become more vibrant in color to attract potential mates. They may also darken their color as a sign of aggression or dominance, particularly during territorial disputes.

Another important use of color changing in bearded dragons is camouflage. These lizards are naturally well-camouflaged to blend in with their surroundings, but they can also adjust their color to better match their environment. This allows them to avoid detection by predators and makes them more effective hunters when stalking prey.

The process of color changing in bearded dragons is controlled by cells in the skin called chromatophores, which contain pigments that can be expanded or contracted to change the skin color. Hormones and other internal factors control these cells and external stimuli such as light and temperature.