Herp-aware gardeners are probably already noticing an increase in the amount of reptile activity at the moment. With the onset of warmer weather, all things reptilian are making their way out into the open to sun themselves and get energised for the breeding season ahead.
Probably the most obvious sign of the return of reptile-friendly weather is the Central Bearded Dragon Pogona vitticeps. These magnificent lizards are sprawled out over the roads at the moment and are an all too frequent victim of roadkill. They are able to slowly adjust the colour of their skin to help with the regulation of their body temperature which often makes them more difficult to see. From bright orange or yellow, to almost jet black and sometimes beautifully patterned they have a wide repertoire of colours which can also express changes in mood during threat displays or courtship.
They also have a subtle system of body signals used to communicate between males and females and between dominant and subordinate males. These consist mainly of different styles and speeds of head bobbing actions but they also use hand waving gestures, usually to signal submission during competition or courtship.
The most obvious tool for communication in the arsenal of the Central Bearded Dragon is the eponymous beard. The spikes look dangerous but are actually much softer to the touch than they appear; they serve to make the beard appear more frightening. During threat displays or displays of sexual dominance the beard can be erected and puffed up by a similar set of muscles used by the related Frill-necked Lizard Chlamydosaurus kingii to erect its famous adornment. Males can also make the beard significantly darker than the surrounding skin to increase the impact of the effect.
Of course, bearded dragons are not the only ones who can use a beard to great effect. Movember is just over the horizon. For the uninitiated, Movember is a charity event organised to raise awareness and funding for mens’ health. To participate all you need to do is cultivate your facial hair for the month of November. The rest of the details can be found on their website at; Movember.
Then if you’d like to take your facial hair to the world stage, perhaps you should have a look at this website; The World Beard Championships.
Who would have thought that “bearding” could be an international competition? Isn’t the world an amazing place?