Date on Honors Thesis

Spring 4-26-2021


Veterinary Technology

Examining Committee Member

Laura Hoffman, DVM, Advisor

Examining Committee Member

Felecia Jones, M.S., LVT, Committee Member

Examining Committee Member

Barbie Papajeski, M.S., LVT, RLATG, VTS, Committee Member


The purpose of this thesis is to study and explain the intelligence of bearded dragons. Bearded dragons (Pogona spp.) are a species of reptile that have been popular in recent years as pets. Until recently, not much was known about their intelligence levels due to lack of appropriate research and studies on the species. Scientists have been studying the physical and social characteristics of bearded dragons to determine if they possess a higher intelligence than previously thought. One adaptation that makes bearded dragons unique is how they respond to heat. Bearded dragons optimize their metabolic functions through a narrow range of body temperatures that are maintained through thermoregulation. Many of their behaviors are temperature dependent, such as their speed when moving and their food response. When they are cold, these behaviors decrease due to their lower body temperature. A second unique feature of bearded dragons is the ability to see color. The ability to see color would give the animal an adaptive advantage to discriminate between objects in their habitats. An organism must have different classes of photo receptors in the retina and the appropriate neuroreceptors to analyze outputs from them in order to possess color vision. Early studies have shown that bearded dragons likely possess these mechanisms. A third feature that bearded dragons possess is the ability to social learn. In a study conducted where they watched a demonstration, they were able to repeat the same action. These results show evidence that bearded dragons are capable of using social information to learn through imitation. A fourth unique feature is how they perceive visual illusions. Through a study conducted on how they perceive the Delboeuf illusion, it was found that they perceive illusions in a very human-like way. They chose the smaller portion which indicates that they may view this illusion similarly to humans, primates, and birds. Bearded dragons are also capable of entering REM and short-wave sleep cycles. While this feature is less complex than a human cycle, it has been shown to be present through monitoring their brain waves. Even though reptiles have been previously studied, most of the behavioral and physiological reasons for their intelligence levels are still unknown due to lack of research on various reptilian species. As more studies continue to be conducted, more information will become available to understand their intelligence and the reasons behind it.