Dwarf bearded dragon (Pogona minor)

Also known as: western bearded dragon
Synonyms: Amphibolurus barbatus minor, Amphibolurus minor, Amphibolurus mitchelli, Pogona mitchelli
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSauria
FamilyAgamidae
GenusPogona (1)
SizeSnout-vent length: 15.2 - 19.5 cm (2)
Total length: 40 cm (1)
Top facts

The dwarf bearded dragon is not yet classified on the IUCN Red List.

A moderately small reptile (3), the dwarf bearded dragon (Pogona minor) can vary in colour from pale grey to a more reddish-brown or brownish-grey. A row of small, erect spines runs down its back (1) (3) (4), and a series of two to six spines is found on each side of the back of the neck. Above these, a set of spines curves around the back of the dwarf bearded dragon’s head, behind the ear (3), and another series extends along the rear edge of the jaw, giving this species the appearance of having a beard (4).

Rows of light blotches run down each side of the dwarf bearded dragon’s body, from the neck to the tail, and another row runs down the spine (4), clearly visible against the darker background colour (3). The dwarf bearded dragon’s tail has indistinct pale greyish-brown banding, and the underside of the base is whitish-grey, either with or without fairly distinct, dark-edged, whitish elliptical spots (3). This species’ head is rounded and robust (4), and the throat is either fully or partly black or dark grey (3). Juvenile dwarf bearded dragons normally have a large black spot on the side of the neck, which sometimes persists in the adult (3).

Two formerly recognised subspecies of the dwarf bearded dragon, the western bearded dragon (Pogona minor minima) and the northwest bearded dragon (Pogona minor mitchelli) have now been recognised as separate species (1). However, some authorities still list the two as subspecies (5). 

The dwarf bearded dragon occurs widely in Australia’s arid landscapes, being found across most of the west of the continent, through the central regions of the country to north-western South Australia. It can also be found in the southwest of the Northern Territory and on some offshore islands, such as Barrow Island (4) (6). The dwarf bearded dragon avoids the extreme north and south of Australia (7). 

The dwarf bearded dragon is adapted to life in a wide range of habitats. It is semi-arboreal, occupying woodland, such as temperate open eucalypt forest and dry sclerophyll forest, as well as scrubland and rocky hillsides. This species is also present in desert landscapes with sandy, stony soils, as well as in grassland and many other habitats that may be present within its range (2) (6). On Barrow Island, the dwarf bearded dragon can be found in a variety of environments from coastal dunes to inland spinifex grassland (4).

Like all bearded dragons, the dwarf bearded dragon is primarily insectivorous, taking insects and other invertebrates (4) (6), but it also eats flowers, seeds and occasionally small mammals (4). Its invertebrate prey includes grasshoppers, termites, spiders, ants, beetles, moths, centipedes and caterpillars. The dwarf bearded dragon may sometimes eat other small lizards (6).

The female dwarf bearded dragon lays its eggs between December and April, with a clutch size of between 2 and 19 eggs (6). The eggs are laid in a nesting chamber dug out of the ground, and two or more clutches per season can be produced if conditions are favourable (4).

When threatened, the dwarf bearded dragon displays interesting behaviour. Occasionally changing colour slightly, a defensive individual flattens its body and opens its brightly coloured mouth. This has the effect of making the reptile look larger, and therefore more threatening (4). All bearded dragons give this ‘bluff’ response, enabled by their highly expandable throat pouch. When the pouch distends, the spines on the throat become erect making the individual appear larger and more ferocious (7) (8). It is this trait that gives the bearded dragons their name, as the expanded spiny pouch looks like a beard (7).

The dwarf bearded dragon has an optimal body temperature of 35 to 39 degrees Celsius, and has several ways to ensure it is regulated. If its body temperature is too low, the bearded dragon basks, lying at a right angle to the sun’s rays and maximising the body area exposed by expanding its ribs. Dwarf bearded dragons bask on sandy beaches, on shrubs in tall, open heath (6), or on top of termite mounds (4). If there is no sun, bearded dragons burrow beneath the soil where it is warmer than on exposed ground, or lie on or under a rock that has been previously warmed by the sun (6). When basking in a group, the most dominant male is entitled to the prime basking spot (9).

When a dwarf bearded dragon’s temperature is too high, it seeks shade, if possible, or lies parallel to the sun’s rays. It may also pant, or pale the skin to help reduce its temperature, in addition to burrowing into cooler soil (6).

Periodic shedding of the skin is characteristic of the bearded dragons, and takes place over several days. Individuals may rub themselves against rough logs or rocks to help scrape off the flaking skin. When food is readily available, such as in spring, summer and early autumn, bearded dragons generally shed their skin more frequently. Overall, shedding frequency is also dependent on the species, age, growth rate and the temperature of the environment. The glossy skin first revealed after shedding soon becomes duller in appearance (6). 

Despite being rarely seen in the wild, the dwarf bearded dragon is actually fairly common (2). This species is not currently known to be facing any major threats. 

No conservation measures are known to be in place at present for the dwarf bearded dragon. However, all reptiles are protected on Barrow Island. This species is not listed on the Wildlife Conservation Act of 1950, nor on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (4).

In New South Wales, all reptiles are protected under the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act, and it is against the law to collect reptile species from the wild. Although the dwarf bearded dragon is considered to be an ‘easy to keep’ species, it requires a Class One Reptile Keepers’ Licence to be held in captivity (10).

More on protected reptile species of Barrow Island, Australia:

Find out more about wildlife conservation in Australia:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. The Reptile Database (November, 2012)
    http://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/search.php
  2. Purser, P. (2006) Bearded Dragons: A Complete Guide to Pogona vitticeps. TFH Publications Inc., Neptune City, New Jersey.
  3. Storr, G. (1982) Revision of the bearded dragons (Lacertilia: Agamidae) of Western Australia with notes on the dismemberment of the genus Amphibolurus. Records of the Western Australian Museum, 10(2): 199-214.
  4. Moro, D. and MacAulay, I. (2010) A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Barrow Island. Chevron Australia, Perth. Available at:
    http://www.chevronaustralia.com/environment/protectingenvironment/nature-books.aspx
  5. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (November, 2012)
    http://www.itis.gov/
  6. Cannon, M. (2003) Husbandry and veterinary aspects of the bearded dragon (Pogona spp.) in Australia. Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine, 12(4): 205-214.
  7. Grenard, S. (2007) Bearded Dragon: Your Happy Healthy Pet. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey.
  8. Wilson, S. (2012) Australian Lizards: A Natural History. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
  9. Bartlett, R. and Bartlett, P. (2009) Bearded Dragons. Second Edition. Barron’s Educational Series, New York.
  10. New South Wales Government, Office of Environment and Heritage - Complete outline of the NSW reptile licensing system (November, 2012)
    http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/wildlifelicences/ReptileLicensingOutline.htm