Attractive appearance, moderate size, a naturally tame demeanor, and a high level of personality (by reptilian standards) have made the inland bearded dragon one of the all-time favorite lizard pets. Compared to many other reptiles, bearded dragons are relatively hardy and easy to keep. However, being ectotherms (cold-blooded), they have particular requirements significantly different from more typical pets such as dogs, cats, and birds. We warm-blooded humans don’t always have a natural propensity for understanding the care of reptiles. Success at keeping bearded dragons depends on acquiring basic knowledge of their needs, as well as the supplies and technology to care for these beautiful lizards. Providing this essential information was our first objective when we (Philippe de Vosjoli and Robert Mailloux) joined to write this new, updated, and expanded version of The General Care and Maintenance of Bearded Dragons.
Interestingly, as we put our heads together, we realized that we had a great deal of useful information that hadn’t yet appeared in print but that would improve our under-standing of bearded dragons’ life stages and in turn ascertain the best way to provide for their husbandry and breeding. Looking at the life stages of bearded dragons also made us aware that, like humans, they undergo changes in growth and behavior, which may require the dedicated owner to make adjustments in husbandry (and general care) to meet the needs of each life stage. As we worked on the project it became clear that there were areas that needed more authoritative and extensive coverage.
As a result, we were fortunate in having several good friends and recognized experts in their fields join us in this writing venture. Our friend Susan Donoghue, V.M.D., a published authority on reptile nutrition who has ongoing research on the effects of diet on bearded dragons, accepted the tasks of writing the section on diet and nutrition, as well as acting as general editor. Roger Klingenberg, D.V.M., another longtime friend who has collaborated with us on a variety of writing projects and who is the author of the best-selling Understanding Reptiles Parasites, agreed to write the section on diseases and disorders.
Because we all have an interest in another Australian lizard, the frilled dragon, and because this fantastic species has become more popular in recent years, we contacted our good friend and frilled dragon expert, Jerry Cole, from the UK. He graciously came through in record time with his formula for successfully keeping and breeding this species. Kevin Dunne, owner of Dragon’s Den Herpetoculture, also contributed to this work by sharing information on his breeding colony of dragons and providing photographs of his unique morphs.
The entire project has been a rich learning experience for all of us about the value of cooperation among friends. The project also made us realize how much work still needs to be done with these lizards in a wide range of areas, including vivarium design, nutrition, herpetological medicine, and genetics. There are even aspects of basic biology that still need to be studied, such as the contributions of skin morphology and cell dynamics to the appearance of the various color morphs and the hyperxanthic response of certain lines of bearded dragons. There remain critical hurdles that have yet to be cleared, such as identifying the factors that have prevented the long-term captive keeping and breeding of Lawson’s dragon and the eastern bearded dragon. These challenges and promises of an ever more exciting future continue to drive us into the peculiar passion called herpetoculture.