Bearded Dragons

Do Bearded Dragons Have A Third Eye?

Where do we start with this one. You’re probably thinking we have gone completely crazy by writing this article. We’ve all seen a bearded dragon before, whether this is in person or pictures and videos. Even if not, then you mostly probably know that reptiles usually have only two eyes (unless born with a deformity). So why are we writing an article on this. Your curiosity is now thinking, Do bearded dragons have a third eye?

And so it should, because although bearded dragons do only have two visible eyes, they do actually have another, and this is called a “parietal third eye”.

(Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to find ‘Other related articles you might like’, once you are done reading).

Parietal Third Eye

So what actually is a Parietal Third Eye?

The parietal third eye is found in a bearded dragons skull, as you might imagine. It is found right in-between its other two visible eyes, which I would call the bridge of the nasal passage. Obviously we can not see this third eye, and it doesn’t work in the same way as eyes usually do. In fact, it can only see shadows and changes in light.

A third eye isn’t as uncommon as you may think. Many lizards, amphibians and fishes can be known to have a parietal third eye.  

Just like a normal eye, a parietal eye has a lens and also a retina. However, it lacks an iris, and it’s for this reason it doesn’t appear like a normal eye. The parietal eye is found on the skull, right between the eyes and it is covered by transparent scales. Believe it or not, you can actually see this pretty well on a bearded dragon. They are one of the few species where the third eye can be seen with a closer look.

Mind blown right? 

This can however also be known as a Solar eye, or Pineal eye.

How did the third eye come about?

Like anything in the living world, evolution plays its part in the adaptation of ones surrounding. Many years ago, (and I mean a very long time ago) scientist believe that bearded dragons actually had two parietal eyes. Meaning these reptiles theoretically had four eyes.

It is thought that through many years of evolution, one of the parietal eyes began to be pushed over into the middle of the skull. This meant that its new position was perfectly placed so that the forth became unused and completely useless. Through many more years the forth parietal eye became vestigial.

Vestigiality is retention through the process of evolution. So if a body part is no longer needed, over time evolution will no longer produce these parts we no longer need or use.

An example of this on humans would be Wisdom teeth. Over time the human jaw has got smaller, therefore we no longer need as many teeth as we once did. And it’s this same principal with bearded dragons and their third and fourth parietal eyes. 

What are the uses of a third eye for a bearded dragon?

You may be thinking that bearded dragons already have two eyes which work perfectly fine. So why do they need a third? Is it really necessary, and is it actually used effectively at all? We already know that bearded dragons can see shows and changes in light with their third eye. But what else.

They can see arial predators with their third eye

This is probably the singular best use of a third eye for a bearded dragon. Birds of prey are a bearded dragons number one threat in the wild. So any evolutionary helping hand is clearly welcomed. 

As a bird dives down, the third eye will sense a change in light. As the bird of prey gets nearer the surrounding light will begin to change and this is noticeable via the their third eye. Human eyes see colour change all day long, and we also don’t have any reason to be cautious of any arial attacks.

However this does have its downfalls, as any kind of overhead shadow will usually scare a wild bearded dragon into hiding or for cover. They will never take a chance to find out their fate, even if the shadow was from an overhead branch from a tree.

They use it for navigation

Studies have shown that bearded dragons actually use their third eye like a compass. They have the ability to determine direction based on the position of the sun in the sky. Like humans, they can tell east from west based on the position of the sun.

I the wild this helps them find their way home after a day of hunting and foraging for foods. It also helps them to locate other safe spots and locations they have previously visited.

Should you be cautious of the third eye as an owner?

You may be thinking, your bearded dragon is kept in an enclosure, so it has no need to be worried about an arial attack. Well, you’re right, it shouldn’t have anything to worry about. It’s safe, with no predators. But, they don’t know this, specially in new surroundings.

Just remember, a lot of bearded dragon owners don’t even know about their pets third eye, so they wouldn’t know about the instinctive behaviours it can cause. When handling a bearded dragon, usually an owner will pick them up from above and commonly a bearded dragon will struggle and wriggle. Almost as if they are trying to get away. 

Well, this is because they are. 

A grabbing hand from above will cast a shadow, just like a bird of prey would in the wild. A clenching hand may also feel like birds claws gripping onto its body in an attack. So it’s no wonder your bearded dragon may be a little stressed and trying to avoid being handled when it thinks it’s being attacked.

A correct reptile enclosure will have sliding doors at the front for entry, not from the top. Stress is one of the main causes of bearded dragon disease and illnesses. Having slinging doors at the front of the enclosure, and offering your hand at ground level will provide a stress free handling process.

Some owners like to use old fish tanks, but please stay away from using these for this exact reason. If you already have a bearded dragon housed in an enclosure with top entry, please do provide a new enclosure with side entrances as soon as you’re able to. This will be highly beneficial to the happiness and health of your pet.

Can enclosure uvb lights cause damage the parietal third eye?

When thinking about protection for your bearded dragon, you should consider the minimum distance between the enclosure lighting and the highest possible basking spot for your dragon. The distance should be anywhere between 6 – 12 inches away from its body at none point in time.

I would recommend spending the money on a on a reliable uvb reading meter. You get what you pay for with these and usually the best one are the most expensive, but its worth the money for your bearded dragons health.

Conclusion

Do bearded dragons have a third eye? Unsurprisingly, just like you, I was also blown away when I found out about a bearded dragons third eye. Equally I was amazed to find out that many other animals also have something very similar. It makes me think what else don’t I know about these amazing animals.

Follow some of the links through to more articles about bearded dragons to find out more.

After searching and testing many different products, we have come up with our list of “Must Have” items for recommendations for both price, and durability for the best enclosure accessories.

Bathing Water Bowl – Click Here

Heat Mat – Click Here

Heat Lamp – Click Here

Reliable Thermometer – Click Here

Vivarium/Enclosure – Click Here

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