In this post, we will explore the many reasons for which bearded dragons have such a strong tendency to lick things in their surroundings. Read on as we explain some of the scientific principles associated with the licking tendencies witnessed among bearded dragons as well.
Why do bearded dragons lick everything? The licking behavior you see in bearded dragons is their way of familiarizing themselves with their environs. Each lick gathers particles that trigger the Jacobson’s organ for understanding their environment better. Moreover, their sense of smell is accentuated by the way they lick things around them.
In this post, we will also explore additional roles played by the Jacobson’s (or vomeronasal) organ, which include abetting the detection of pheromones as well as assisting in reproductive behavior. So make sure to read on till the very end as we explore every aspect of this enthralling licking behavior seen in bearded dragons.
It’s Strictly Speaking NOT Licking!
That which comes across as licking behavior in bearded dragons is strictly speaking not licking the way we humans understand and relate to the word. Yet, since it has the complete look and feel of licking, we refer to it as such.
Otherwise, beardies simply use their tongue to get a really good sense of their surroundings; in the process of doing so, they gather particles which send out receptive signals to the concerned Jacobson’s organ.
Curiosity Thrills the Beardies!
You must have heard the widely used expression ‘curiosity kills the cat’. In the case of bearded dragons though, we can state, ‘curiosity thrills the beardies’ since this element of inquisitiveness plays a very big part in explaining the licking behavior seen in them.
With each lick (or at least what seems to be licking), bearded dragons get a better grasp on the environment around them. Remember that pet beardies are far, far away from their natural desert/ woodland surroundings of Australia.
Newly bred bearded dragons are especially very curious about the ambiance around them and tend to display this licking behavior all the more frequently. Some prominent examples of reasons for which bearded dragons especially like to lick include:
- Gauging Temperature – Bearded dragons are often very curious about the temperature of items in their vicinity. Therefore, frequently, the licking behavior that you see in them may well be an attempt on their part to ascertain how hot or cold an item may be.
- Texture – Interestingly, bearded dragons are often curious about the texture of items as well. That is the reason, again you will find them licking away quite recurrently, simply to gauge the texture of items around them; how rough or smooth they are, etc.
More about Smell than Taste
While many consider bearded dragons to be getting a “taste” for their surroundings by their licking behavior, factually speaking, with beardies, it is more about smell than taste. As with most reptiles which tend to have a strong sense of smell, bearded dragons are no exception.
Every flick of the tongue sends out signals onto receptors that are present on the roofs of their mouths. These receptors, in turn, help bearded dragons understand their surroundings better and deal with them accordingly.
So, rather than “taste”, we can refer to the way beardies go about licking things around them as their way of carrying out a “test” of their ambient environment.
Lickety Instances that Stand Out
While bearded dragons can go about licking just about everything that comes their way, there are some instances that especially stand out:
- Beardies especially love licking objects in their habitat – this is where they spend maximum time in, and really like to familiarize themselves with items within it.
- YOU! Yes, you and other family members/friends spending maximum time with your beardie; your pet is quite likely to go all lickety with them!
- Food items – Each new food item, especially when first introduced, would raise curiosity in your beardie, which would, in turn, compel it to go about licking it.
There are some (small!) Exceptions
While the majority of bearded dragons by far display this tendency to lick things around them, there are some, albeit small, exceptions which may not display such behavior.
You should not construe this as something unusual, especially not something which may require any kind of corrective action, say taking your pet to the vet or any such measure.
Just as among us humans, there are many characteristic traits typical to most of us, and yet, there is this slim minority which deviates from the norm and does not display such tendencies, same is true with bearded dragons as well.
Simply take it as a case of individual differences and move on!
Wrongful Perception of Fear
It would be worthy to mention at this juncture that bearded dragons do not lick away, out of any sense of fear. We mention this because there is a misconception, especially among newbie beardie owners, that perhaps they are licking out of fear.
That is simply not the case at all. As we have frequently mentioned throughout this post, it is simply a case of curiosity, of knowing their surroundings, and a little more…which we touch upon in the next section.
Jacobson’s Organ’s Role beyond Sensory Detection
While Jacobson’s or vomeronasal organ primarily has a sensory detection role to play, it does end up performing parts beyond that as well.
In particular, it does help bearded dragons detect pheromones in other beardies. Therefore, especially when it is mating time, Jacobson’s organ definitely plays a key role in ensuring that just the right beardies “connect” with one another.
As a result, one can easily draw an allegory to conclude that effectively, Jacobson’s organ does contribute towards the reproduction process among bearded dragons. After all, by helping them choose their ideal partner, the vomeronasal organ ensures that the “beardie legacy” goes on unabashed!
Bearded dragons tend to lick things around them to get a sense, a feel of their surroundings. The Jacobson’s organ plays a pivotal role in this entire process, ensuring that beardies do get an accurate picture of their ambiance.
Alongside, it does help with pheromone detection – and therefore, assists with cohabitation of bearded dragons as well.
Now that you have a good understanding of WHY bearded dragons lick everything, you might also want to know:
Do bearded dragons like to be petted?
Typically, bearded dragons prefer to be by themselves and remain aloof to affection imparted on them. At the same time, they don’t mind being petted, some even enjoy it; at least they give the impression of doing so!
Also read: Are bearded dragons affectionate?
Can bearded dragons sense emotions?
Reptiles as a whole tend to be standoffish when it comes to emotions; they neither seem to sense them nor display them. Bearded dragons, however, are a reasonable exception on this front and do seem to sense as well as display at least some degree of emotion.