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Bearded Dragon Third Eye: Everything You Need to Know

Nicole Cosgrove

Just by looking at a bearded dragon, you probably would have no idea that these creatures have what is sometimes called a third eye. No, this third eye doesn’t function like the other two eyes, but it provides critical information to help the bearded dragon survive in the wild.

To find out more about the bearded dragon’s third eye, read on. In this article, we learn what the third eye is, what it is for, and what you as the bearded dragon owner should do to care for your beardie’s third eye. Let’s get started.

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Do Beardies Have a Third Eye?

bearded dragon on a rock
Image Credit: T Ince, Pixabay

It’s a simple fact about the bearded dragon’s anatomy: they have a third eye. Now, this third eye doesn’t look like the other two eyes. In fact, this third eye looks so different from the other two that an unskilled observer might not even realize it exists.

Simply put, the third eye is a literal eye. It is called a pineal, parietal, or solar eye. It is located at the top of the bearded dragon’s head, right between the two traditional eyes. Like the other two eyes, the solar eye has a retina and lens, but it does not have an iris, which is why it looks different from the other two eyes. The third eye also has a scale over it, and it is much smaller than the other two.

This third eye is very interesting because it connects directly to the bearded dragon’s brain. As a result, this third eye sends signals to the pineal gland, instead of the optic center, which is where the other two eyes signal information. Hence, the third eye functions very differently from the other two.

What Does the Third Eye Detect?

The bearded dragon’s third eye is used to primarily detect light, temperature, and shade differences. For example, it is often used so that lizards can detect whenever the seasons are changing. It does not signal exact images like the other two eyes.

Do Any Other Animals Have This Third Eye?

There are actually quite a few other reptiles and lizards that possess this third eye. Some iguanas, skinks, and monitor lizards have a third eye. It is primarily used in order to detect seasonal changes outside.divider-bearded dragon

How Do Bearded Dragons Use Their Third Eye?

leatherback bearded dragon
Image Credit: Ery Azmeer, Shutterstock

So, what exactly does this third eye do? How do bearded dragons use this eye? As we learned above, it signals information to a different area in the brain from the other two eyes.

Because the third eye does not signal information to the optic center of the brain, it is not used for seeing items like the other two eyes. Even though the third eye is very different from the other two eyes, it serves several critical roles in the bearded dragon’s survival.

Regulates Their Biological Processes

All animals, included bearded dragons, live based on biological processes that are regulated by different hormones and chemicals in their body. The third eye seems to regulate these biological processes, helping the bearded dragon know when it’s time to wake up, go to sleep, etc.

For example, it is the pineal gland that is responsible for releasing hormones such as melatonin, which is the hormone responsible for your sleep cycle. By connecting to the pineal gland, this third eye tells the bearded dragon’s body it’s time to release melatonin for sleep.

Melatonin isn’t the only important hormone associated with the third eye. Hormone production and thermal regulation as a whole are deeply linked to the pineal gland and the third eye in bearded dragons.

Helps Them Sense Predators and Items From Above

Even though the third eye does not directly allow bearded dragons to see, it allows them to indirectly learn information about their surroundings. More specifically, this third eye can detect shadows and changes in temperature, which then allows the bearded dragon to detect predators from above.

If a bearded dragon detects a shadow above them, they will likely run and hide. This allows them to escape predators they may not have otherwise seen if they only had the two traditional eyes.

Leatherback bearded dragon (pogona) in tank
Image Credit: PIxabay

Acts As a Compass

Another really interesting role of the third eye is that it almost acts as a compass. Researchers have found that bearded dragons with their third eye covered often have serious difficulties finding their home once they go out for the day.

This suggests that the third eye almost acts as a compass or internal GPS. Perhaps, it is because the third eye picks up on light, which allows the bearded dragon to know which general direction it is going or coming from.

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How To Take Care of Your Beardie’s Third Eye

Because the bearded dragon has a third eye, it’s important to know how to properly create the enclosure that cares for the dragon. Here are some things you need to know about caring for your bearded dragon and its third eye:

1. Turn Off Light at Night

In the wild, bearded dragons are ruled by the natural day and night cycle. So that the bearded dragon is able to release the correct hormones at the right time, it’s imperative to turn off light at night. If you don’t, the bearded dragon’s third eye will negatively impact the pineal hormone regulation process.

For best results, try to replicate the day and night cycle within your bearded dragon’s enclosure. During the day, make sure there are a lot of bright lights. However, turn off all lights whenever it is night time.


2. Use Automatic Lighting

So that you don’t forget to turn off the light at night, it’s best to use automatic lighting. Automatic lighting will cost a little bit more upfront, but it will definitely be worth it because it means you don’t have to worry about remembering to mess with the bearded dragon’s cage every day and night.

Central Bearded Dragon on a rock
Image Credit: Joyce Mar, Shutterstock

3. Don’t Alternate Between Natural and Artificial Light

Many new bearded dragon owners like to alternate between artificial and natural light to give the bearded dragon a bit of fresher air. Although this is good in theory, it doesn’t always work in practice. Some bearded dragons react negatively whenever they are switched between natural and artificial light.

It is unclear exactly why some bearded dragons respond in this way, but it may have something to do with the third eye and how it reacts to natural sunlight specifically. To ensure that your bearded dragon remains happy and healthy, try to keep it in either natural or artificial light. Don’t alternate between the two.


4. Don’t Approach Your Beardie from Above

One of the most important things to take away from this article is that you should not approach your bearded dragon from above. If you approach your bearded dragon in this way, it will create a shadow over the third eye. As a result, the bearded dragon will become startled because it associates shadows with predators.

Instead, try to approach your bearded dragon from the front where they can see you. This way, the bearded dragon knows that it is you who is coming towards them, and not a potential predator.

hand carrying bearded dragon
Image Credit: tavan150, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

As weird as it may sound, bearded dragons have a third eye that is located at the top of their head. Even though it functions very differently from the other two eyes, it still serves an important function in the bearded dragon’s survival and life.

As the bearded dragon’s owner, it is up to you to create an environment that nourishes the third eye instead of harms it. Make sure to provide the correct light cycle and to not approach the bearded dragon from above. By doing these two things, you are working with the bearded dragon’s third eye, not against it.


Featured Image Credit: h1r0maty31official, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.