Bearded dragon photoperiod
The photoperiod is the time a Bearded dragon is exposed to light over a period of 24 hours. When placed in an artificial environment, the photoperiod is an important factor to consider when trying to create a natural experience for Bearded dragons.
For Bearded dragons, the photoperiod affect the day-night-rhythm which has an effect on their growth and is used to determine the four seasons of the year. Bearded dragons are diurnal animals, meaning they are mainly active during the day. At night they fall asleep and consume no food. Having, for example, longer days allow for more feeding and subsequent growth. This is why baby Bearded dragons that hatch in summer, with longer days, have a greater change of survival. As the days get shorter and the night longer, Bearded dragons are able to determine that winter is approaching.
The pineal gland
Lizards, including Bearded dragons, have what is called a pineal gland (also referred to a ‘third eye‘). It is a small pea-shaped gland situated in the brain which is sensitive to environmental light. Although some of its functions are still unknown, it is known that the pineal gland secretes melatonin (a hormone) when lizards are exposed to light. Longer days will lead to more hormone secretion and vice versa. In other words, when the concentration of melatonin is low (i.e. when the day-length is relatively short when compared with the night-length) the brain can determine that it is winter. When there is a sudden change in the concentration from low to high (i.e. during spring) these hormones, among other things, stimulate breeding behaviour.
Controlling the photoperiod for Bearded dragons
The photoperiod can be effectively controlled using enclosure lighting (heating and UV lighting) in combination with a seasonal roster. A programmable electric timer will come in very handy to automate the process. On principle, lighting should be on for about 14 hours per day during the summer period and gradually reduced to 12 hours in winter.
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