How Good is a Bearded Dragon’s Vision?

The vision of a bearded dragon is quite remarkable. These fascinating reptiles boast a range of unique visual abilities that set them apart from other species. 

Bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) are popular reptiles in the pet trade and have become a subject of interest for researchers due to their unique sensory abilities. This article sheds light on the bearded dragon’s parietal eye, color vision, and magnetoreception, providing insights into their fascinating visual capabilities.

Parietal Eye and Its Function

Other than the bearded dragon’s two eyes, some lizards possess a unique third “eye” called the parietal eye, also known as the third eye or pineal eye. This specialized organ is located on top of the lizard’s head and is covered by a translucent scale that allows light to pass through. Despite its name, the parietal eye is not a true eye, as it lacks a lens and cannot form images, but rather it is a photosensitive organ that can detect changes in light and dark cycles. 

The parietal eye’s primary function is to regulate the lizard’s exposure to sunlight and time spent on the ground’s surface. Increased exposure to sunlight following the removal or impairment of the parietal eye suggests that it plays a role in inhibiting activity levels directly dependent on solar radiation.

The parietal eye continuously obtains a representative sample of sunlight reaching the skin of the dorsal surfaces of the body. It lacks lids and an iris mechanism, meaning it cannot modify the radiation received by the retina. This secretory organ is believed to release a hormone that affects the lizard’s behavior and vital processes, such as the heart and respiratory rate.

Color Vision

Bearded dragons possess color vision, which gives them an adaptive advantage in discriminating between objects in their habitats. They have different classes of photoreceptors in their retinas and the appropriate neuroreceptors to analyze the outputs from these photoreceptors. Studies have shown that bearded dragons can associate colors with food rewards and discriminate between various colors regardless of color intensity differences.

Brightness and chromatic contrast play significant roles in the bearded dragon’s visual system. They rely on chromatic mechanisms to recognize food sources and other members of their species. Moreover, bearded dragons have been found to perceive visual illusions, similar to humans, suggesting that they can interpret and alter visual input related to an object’s size.

Light-Dependent Magnetoreception

In addition to their color vision and parietal eye functions, bearded dragons are believed to possess light-dependent magnetoreception. This capability allows them to detect the Earth’s magnetic field and use it for orientation and navigation. Research suggests that light-dependent magnetoreception in bearded dragons is activated in the parietal eye only for light with wavelengths less than 580 nm.


Bearded dragons have remarkable visual capabilities, including color vision, the ability to perceive visual illusions, and light-dependent magnetoreception. Their parietal eye plays a crucial role in regulating exposure to sunlight and influencing their behavior. These fascinating sensory abilities offer insights into the bearded dragon’s adaptation to its environment and its survival strategies. Understanding their visual system not only contributes to our knowledge of reptilian biology but also has potential applications in developing advanced visual technologies. Further research on bearded dragons and other reptiles will continue to reveal the intricacies of their sensory systems and their impact on behavior and survival.