Bearded dragons are popular reptilian pets known for their unique physical appearance, docile temperament, and easy-to-maintain care requirements. Male bearded dragons have distinct features that differentiate them from their female counterparts, making it easy to determine the gender of a particular dragon among the different species.
In this article, I’ll explore the best way to tell what sex a bearded dragon is, and how a bearded dragon’s gender can impact their diet and lifestyle. This guide will help you understand your bearded dragon better so you can meet their individual needs.
What Is the “Beard” on a Bearded Dragon?
The bearded dragon, also known as Pogona, is a species of lizard that’s native to Australia. One of the defining features of the bearded dragon is its beard or throat pouch, which is a flap of skin located on the underside of the lizard’s neck. The beard is also known as the dewlap, gular fold, or throat fan.
Do All Adult Bearded Dragons Have Beards?
Both male and female bearded dragons have beards, but a female dragon’s beard will usually be smaller in size and less pronounced than that of a mature male.
The beard of a bearded dragon serves many purposes for both male and female beardies. Regardless of the gender of your bearded dragon, there are some remarkable functions and facts associated with their impressive beards:
A bearded dragon’s beard is primarily used for communication. When the lizard is threatened or feels stressed, it will puff up its beard to make itself appear larger and more intimidating. This is a defensive mechanism that helps the lizard avoid predators.
The beard of a bearded dragon also helps with temperature regulation. The lizard can expand or contract its beard to control the amount of heat that is retained or released from its body. This helps it maintain its body temperature and stay comfortable in a range of environments.
A beard can also be used to signal social behavior. For example, when two bearded dragons meet, they may engage in a “beard waving” behavior where they rapidly expand and contract their beards to communicate their intentions.
The color and texture of a bearded dragon’s beard can also be an indicator of its health. If the beard is dull or discolored, it may be a sign of an underlying health issue such as a respiratory infection or poor nutrition.
Like many other parts of a bearded dragon’s body, the beard is also subject to shedding. When a bearded dragon sheds, its old skin will peel away from the beard, revealing a fresh, new layer underneath.
Beardies are known to be fastidious groomers, and they will often use their tongues to clean their beards. This helps to remove any dirt, debris, or leftover food particles that may have become trapped in the folds of the skin.
The Main Characteristics of A Female Dragon
Now that we’ve discussed the beard of a bearded dragon, let’s look at the main characteristics that differentiate females from males.
Female bearded dragons are typically smaller than their male counterparts and tend to be more slender in build. An adult female will usually measure between 16-19 inches in length, while an adult male measures between 21 and 24 inches in length. A larger bearded dragon is more likely to be male than female.
2) Head and Thighs
Female bearded dragons tend to have a slender and triangular head shape, while males usually have larger and more prominent heads. Young beardies of both sexes may appear similar in size and shape, but as they mature the differences become more pronounced. The female femoral pores are located on a bearded dragon’s thighs, closer together than the male femoral pores, which are generally farther apart.
The tail of a female bearded dragon is typically thinner than that of a male, and it will not have the same club-like shape. A bearded dragon’s tail is used for storing fat reserves, so it’s an important indicator of health.
4) Hemipenal Bulge
This is a distinguishing feature between male and female bearded dragons that can be seen when they’re viewed from above. Male beardies will typically have two hemipenal bulges located near their tail, while females do not possess this trait.
Behavioral Differences in Male Bearded Dragons
A male bearded dragon may exhibit certain behaviors that are unique to its gender. For example, a male bearded dragon will often display territorial behavior and dominance over other males or females in the same environment. It may also engage in courtship behavior such as head bobbing or beard waving when trying to attract a potential mate.
Males tend to be more aggressive than females, and they are less likely to tolerate handling or physical contact. They may also exhibit aggressive behaviors such as head bobbing and arm waving when threatened.
Similarly, there are certain behaviors that female bearded dragons tend to display more often than males. For example, a female will usually be more tolerant of human interaction and handling than a male. Female beardies are also less prone to displaying territorial or dominant behaviors.
Both male and female bearded dragons can be kept as pets, but it’s important to consider the behavioral differences between the two genders when selecting a companion animal. With the right care and attention, bearded dragons can make wonderful pets for both experienced and novice reptile keepers.
The Biology Behind Sexing Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons have a sex determination system that’s different from that of mammals. While in mammals, sex is determined by the presence of either X or Y chromosomes, in some reptiles, including some populations of bearded dragons, sex is determined by the temperature at which their eggs are incubated.
This system is known as temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD), and it involves the temperature at which the eggs are incubated during a critical period of development. However, it’s worth noting that chromosomes can also play a role in determining the sex of a bearded dragon, and some populations have been found to use both TSD and genomic sex determination.
Specifically, bearded dragon embryos develop as females when the eggs are incubated at temperatures between 80 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit (27-31 Celsius). Conversely, embryos develop as males at temperatures ranging from 89 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit (32-34 Celsius). If the eggs are incubated at temperatures outside of these ranges, the sex ratio of the hatchlings will become skewed.
The Easiest Ways to Sex Bearded Dragons
Now we’ve looked at the male and female differences, let’s take a look at the easiest ways to sex bearded dragons.
The most common way to sex adult bearded dragons is by visual examination. Males typically have larger heads and thicker beards than females, as well as longer tails. Additionally, some males may develop spikes along the side of their bodies that are not present in female dragons.
Cloacal Opening Width
The cloacal opening, which is located on the underside of a bearded dragon near the base of its tail, can also be used to sex them. In males, the opening will be wider – it will also appear ventral and slightly curved, whereas in females it will be more dorsal and straight.
Hemipenal Bulge Flashlight
Another method used to sex bearded dragons is the hemipenal bulge flashlight technique. This involves shining a light on the underside of the dragon, which makes the hemipenes in males much easier to see. In females, no bulges will be seen, but a male’s hemipenal bulges will appear as two small bumps.
This method can be done at home but should still only be done with adult dragons and with professional guidance. It’s important to gently lift the dragon and hold it close to a light source, as too much pressure could cause damage.
If the visual examination is not conclusive, probing may be done in order to determine the sex of a bearded dragon. This involves gently inserting a probe into the vent area to look for the presence of hemipenes, which are two small structures associated with male internal sex organs. Probing should only be done by a professional, such as a reptile veterinarian, to avoid hurting the dragon.
The size of the tail can also be a clue when it comes to sexing bearded dragons. Males tend to have larger, thicker tails than females and this difference becomes more noticeable during the breeding season. In baby bearded dragons, however, the tail size difference is much less pronounced and other techniques should be used.
Males and females both display different behaviors when courting a potential mate. Females will usually exhibit more submissive behavior, while males may become more territorial and aggressive.
Additionally, males may perform head bobbing or arm waving displays in order to attract the attention of a female dragon. So, if you’re unsure about determining the sex of your beardie from a physical standpoint, how they’re acting should give you an educated guess!
Can Male Bearded Dragons Turn Into Females?
No, once bearded dragons are born, their sex will remain the same for life and it’s not possible for them to turn into another gender. Bearded dragons are born either male or female and will stay that way until the end of their lives.
At What Age Can You Determine the Sex of a Bearded Dragon?
It’s possible to tell the sex of a bearded dragon as early as 8 weeks old, though it may be difficult due to their size and squirming. However, experienced keepers and breeders may be able to do it before then.
If you are unable to determine the sex at this age, then wait until they reach adulthood (around 12 months old). At this age, sexual characteristics become much more prominent, which will make it easier to distinguish between males and females. As discussed earlier, males have characteristics such as hemipenal bulges, enlarged femoral pores, bigger heads, and thicker tails.
Determining the gender of a bearded dragon is not always an easy task, especially when dealing with baby dragons. However, several methods can be used to sex them, such as visual examination and inspecting for hemipenes in males. Additionally, behavioral displays and tail size can also provide clues to a beardie’s gender.
It’s important to remember that all of these methods are best and safest when done by a professional and under the supervision of a veterinarian. With the right knowledge and care, you can quickly and accurately identify your bearded dragon’s gender!