Bearded Dragons Third Eye: All You Need to Know

Bearded Dragon Third Eye

Many bearded dragon owners are simply fascinated that their pet bearded dragon might actually have a hidden third eye.

Yet, as they examine their beardie, they’re sure that they can only see their two regular eyes. This leaves many people scratching their heads and asking themselves if they heard right.

So, do bearded dragons have a third eye?

The short answer is: yes! However, don’t expect it to look and act like their two other eyes!

In this article, we’ll let you know all there is to know about the bearded dragon third eye.

Do Bearded Dragons Have a Third Eye?

You might have heard of other creatures like amphibians or fish having third eyes. Many skinks, anoles, and frogs have a third eye, which is essentially a leftover ancestor remnant.

Bearded dragons are just as old as many of these species so it shouldn’t be all that surprising to discover that these lizards also have a third eye.

This ‘third eye’ is also referred to as a pineal eye, solar eye, or parietal eye. Essentially, it is a photosensory organ located on the bearded dragon’s head.

Bearded Dragon Third Eye Loation

The third eye is connected to the pineal gland, which allows light changes to be detected.

Way back (think prehistoric era), bearded dragons actually had four ‘eyes’. This was their two regular eyes and their two parietal eyes.

With evolution, these two parietal eyes grew closer together towards the middle of their heads. As such, they fused together to be a vestigial organ to create the third eye seen today.

Where Is the Bearded Dragon’s Third Eye Located?

Before you pin your pet down trying to find his parietal eye, there isn’t that much to be seen.

Right between his two regular eyes, in the middle of his head is a small dot. It will be noticeable as the scales surrounding it are different colors.

It’s best if you don’t swoop in and grab him for a detailed look, just observe naturally from a normal distance.

What Does the Bearded Dragon Third Eye Do?

Even though this eye has a cornea, lens, and retina, it cannot see images. This is because it doesn’t have an iris, which is needed for image visualization, and it also doesn’t have any connection to the optic center.

Thus, no images are created from it. What’s more, the lens and retina are underdeveloped in comparison to the normal eyes.

Rather, its purpose is to detect light, shade and temperature variations. It controls many biological processes and detects predators.

The third eye’s ability to detect light means that it knows when shadows pass overheard. It also perceives changes in light as you pass through the day. However, this is as far as image goes.

Though the bearded dragon can detect shade, it can’t determine shape so it doesn’t know what the shade is. It can detect attacks but it might just be you overhead.

Bearded Dragons Use Their Parietal Eye as A Compass

Believe it or not, the bearded dragon’s third eye appears useful in their navigation. It helps them find their bearings and their way back home.

Research from the University of Ferrara, Italy in 2009 showed what the third eye actually helps these lizards to do. While this experiment was done with Italian wall lizards, it is believed that the bearded dragon’s biology of their third eye is the same.

Firstly, they were trained to navigate mazes before their third eye was interfered with.

The researchers created artificial light and night cycles, painted over the lizards’ third eyes, and even removed some of the third eyes!

The results were that the lizards couldn’t then find their way through the maze, even though they had been through it successfully many times before and knew the route.

The only lizards that were still able to navigate the route were the ones who hadn’t had their third eye messed with.

It’s easy, then, to understand just how much, bearded dragons and other lizards use their third eye as a compass. It uses the angle, intensity, and position of the sun to find out where it is.

Bearded Dragons Use Their Third Eye to See Predators

The pineal eye also has the purpose of alerting bearded dragons to danger from predators. Though it doesn’t ‘see’, it can detect light and sudden changes to shadows.

Due to the positioning of the third eye on the bearded dragon’s head, it makes for an ideal predator warning system.

When bearded dragons are focusing on resting, eating, or looking at their surrounding, their third eye is at work observing directly above them and behind them.

As soon as there is a drop in light, the bearded dragon knows instinctively to head for cover.

Of course, this is quite a crude system and it means that beardies run from any sort of shadow.

This means that although they do run from predators, they also run from things like falling leaves, a bird flying overhead, and even your hand.

It’s essentially a ‘fight or flight’ reaction.

Bearded Dragons Use Their Third Eye for Thermoregulation

A bearded dragon’s third eye is directly connected to its pineal gland via an opening in its skull. It is also linked to the epithalamus.

Together, these two manage melatonin secretions. This substance is vital for regulating a bearded dragon’s biological clock.

Because they’re cold-blooded creatures, bearded dragons need to regulate their rest and activity periods in order to manage their body’s resources.

If they run around too much, they’ll become emaciated and will be an easy target for a predator as they would have depleted all of their energy.

If they laze around too much, they don’t get enough nutrients. Thus, their internal clock is essential in keeping a bearded dragon healthy.

The beardie’s parietal eye helps them know when to move, eat, and sleep. Without the parietal eye, bearded dragons wouldn’t function properly and they wouldn’t be able to regulate how much time they should spend in sunlight.

These pathways also help the pineal eye regulate hormone production.

The changes this eye perceives in the sun angle and intensity inform the bearded dragon when the season is changing. This then prompts his body to start preparing for brumation.

How amazing is it that this one little dot helps direct hormone production!

Do Bearded Dragons Use Their Third Eye in Captivity?

The chances are, your pet beardie isn’t using his 3rd eye to navigate himself around his enclosure.

However, bearded dragons in captivity do use it for predator avoidance and thermoregulation. After all, they can’t switch off their instincts.

That said, your actions might be responsible for startling your beardie via his third eye, so be careful how you move your body and hands over this area.

Does a Bearded Dragon Third Eye Have an Eyelid?

There is actually debate about whether you can even call a bearded dragon’s third eye an eye at all. As we’ve mentioned, this parietal eye doesn’t ‘see’ and isn’t connected to the optic nerve.

Thus, although it is covered in transparent scales, a bearded dragon’s third eye does not have an eyelid. The scales do protect it from the environment but there is no mucous membrane to keep the cornea moist.

Bearded Dragon Third Eye

Is It Possible to Damage a Bearded Dragon Third Eye?

The chances are that even if you touch a beardie’s third eye, you won’t damage it. You should, however, ensure that there is nothing protruding into their tank that could wedge underneath its clear scales and scratch the parietal eye cornea.

It’s also important to make sure your lights are safe for your bearded dragon as they can cause problems with the parietal eye if not.

Firstly, make sure that they are between six and twelve inches away from him. This is because they can damage the parietal eye if they’re too close.

Secondly, only use ultraviolet light that is specifically designed to be used in a reptile tank for a bearded dragon. If you use a mercury vapor bulb, it will be too strong.

You should also make sure that your bearded dragon has a good day and night cycle. This means turning off all lights at night.

The pineal eye can detect even low-level red light and it will disturb their circadian rhythms. You can use a timer for automatic lighting cycles if this helps. This will ensure that there is bright white light when necessary but not at other times.

How Can I Prevent Third Eye Damage?

The lighting needs of a bearded dragon shouldn’t be compromised. In the wild, they would have lots of exposure to natural sunlight. In captivity, they need artificial light to recreate the experience they would have as wild bearded dragons.

The parietal eye shouldn’t be exposed to bright light at the wrong times of the day so make sure that you keep your pet in a place where it is dark at the right times.

You can also prevent third eye damage by ensuring you handle your pet with appropriate care.

Just like you wouldn’t go out of your way to touch their normal eyes, don’t go prodding around to find your bearded dragon’s third eye either. Despite looking like a small grey mark, their transparent scale over their third eye is delicate.

Bearded Dragons Third Eye: FAQs

What Does a Bearded Dragon’s Vision Look Like?

A bearded dragon’s vision is very good. They see things brightly and in color. Since their eyes are on the side of their heads, they have a wider field of vision compared to humans. Their depth perception, however, is not as good. As discussed, the pineal eye, aka the third eye, doesn’t see anything. Rather it detects light and helps the bearded dragon determine changes in the environment.

What Does It Mean when Your Bearded Dragon Squints One Eye?

Similar to human beings confined to their own eyes to view the same things, beardies close their eyes to allow the eyes to be focused on the same objects. The animal usually does this when it is chasing its prey. You should notice this characteristic when feeding the beardie as it wants more clarity in the foods it is consuming.

Do Humans Have a Pineal Eye?

Though humans have a pineal gland, they do not have a third eye, unlike a bearded dragon. However, this pineal gland was once known as ‘the third eye’. Just like in bearded dragons, there is a small pine cone-shaped gland that is found in the middle of the two brain hemispheres in the epithalamus. And its purpose is the same: it secretes melatonin and regulates the internal clock.

Final Thoughts on Bearded Dragon Third Eye

Unlike humans and other mammals, bearded dragons have a third eye. The third eye called the pineal eye or parietal eye is present in every bearded dragon and appears as a grey dot or tiny spot on its head.

Bearded dragons once had a fourth eye too, but this merged with the third as the species evolved. This grey dot is able to sense light but it doesn’t see actual images nor anything on a precise scale.

Because bearded dragons are diurnal lizards, looking after this grey spot is essential to their good health. These cold-blooded animals need direct sunlight and their third eye detects this and helps them have a proper sleep cycle and wake cycle.

For this reason, it’s important to emulate their natural habitat in captivity. Their biological functions depend on adequate UVB lights at a proper distance. Erratic lighting will disturb their sleep cycles as well as their body temperature.

So, now you know, bearded dragons have a third eye so you can ensure you look after your beloved beardie well to protect this area.

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