Licking behaviour in Bearded dragons

Licking behaviour in Bearded dragons
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Credits: Image from SteveGreerPhotography.com

Licking behaviour is frequently seen in (pet) Bearded dragons when they are active. Unlike for example Chameleons, Bearded dragons do not have long, projectile tongues to catch prey from a long distance, but they do use them in similar ways.

Apart from using the tongue to catch prey, licking behaviour (or tasting behaviour) is actually an additional way for Leopard geckos to smell or test their environment. They also don’t lick things per se. Most other reptiles and many animals also has this ability.

After each lick, microscopic particles from the environment collects on the surface of the tongue. The tongue is then pushed into an opening inside the upper part of the mouth which connects it to a sensory part of the reptile brain. This area is also called the Jacobson’s organ or the vomeronasal organ. The vemeronasal organ has the ability to decipher these particles in order to make the reptile “understand” its environment a little better.

Jacobson's organ in a snake
Jacobson’s organ in a snake. Image from Reptile-savvy.weebly.com

It is currently believed that in many animals, the vemeronasal organ is responsible for detecting pheromones, aiding in reproduction and social behaviour.

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About the author
Renier Delport is a qualified experienced companion animal veterinarian with a keen interest in the welfare of pet reptiles. He's currently working at Vet Hospital Port Shepstone, South Africa and has been treating and keeping Bearded dragons and writing various literature on these and other fascinating reptiles.

Renier Delport is also the author of The Advanced Bearded Dragon Manual and other Bearded dragon related eBooks.