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Have you noticed the holes on either side of your bearded dragon’s head? They’re pretty hard to miss! Many first-time bearded dragon owners are perplexed by bearded dragon holes when they first see them.
So, what are the holes? In this article we’ll discuss:
Let’s dive in!
The holes on both sides of the face of a bearded dragon lie just above the corners of the mouth. They’re right in line with the eyes but further back on the skull. This placement often gets them mistaken for gills, empty eye sockets, or even just empty holes. They do, in fact, serve a few purposes that are vital to your bearded dragon’s daily life, like hearing and balance.
So, what are the holes on either side of a bearded dragon’s head? They are ears!
There’s so much more under the surface of the holes in a bearded dragon’s head, and learning the anatomy and functions of those bits will help you understand the roles these important holes play. Plus, learning a bit of anatomy to establish what’s normal is a big part of learning how to care for a bearded dragon.
Bearded dragon ears are just as complex as human ears. The only component that they’re missing is the ‘outer ear’ portion that mammals have. The exterior part of their ears are just the scaly bearded dragon holes you see on the surface of their skin. They have a tympanic membrane as well as a middle and inner ear.
See more: Interested in the other fascinating body parts of a bearded dragon? See our full guide and diagram on the anatomy of a bearded dragon!
Bearded dragons have an eardrum called a tympanic membrane that is visible upon close inspection. It’s much closer to the surface of the ear canal than it is in humans. You should be able to see it if you look closely–it covers the inside of the opening so you won’t be able to see all the way down into your beardie’s ear. The tympanic membrane vibrates when it picks up sound.
The middle ear of a bearded dragon is similar to that of a human, but with a slight difference: while humans have three tiny bones behind their eardrums, bearded dragons only have one. This tiny bone is called the stapes and is also referred to as the stirrup. It connects the tympanic membrane to the inner ear and carries the vibrations from the sound waves to the inner ear.
The inner ear is comprised of a fluid-filled channel called the cochlea and semicircular canals. The cochlea connects to the auditory nerve that transmits sound waves from the inner ear to the brain for processing. Bearded dragon ears work almost exactly like human ears!
Speaking of the similarities between bearded dragon ear holes and human ears, both carry out more than one function.
Obviously, being able to hear well assists a bearded dragon in hunting for food. The better they can hear, the more accurately they can seek and stalk their prey, which consists of different kinds of small insects like crickets and worms.
Bearded dragons have several natural predators that they have to be wary of in the wild (and sometimes in captivity). Cats, foxes, dogs, large birds, and other reptiles are all possible enemies that would seek to make a meal of a bearded dragon or its eggs. A keen sense of hearing helps them evade these would-be assailants and allows them to seek shelter before a confrontation occurs.
Just like humans, the inner ear of bearded dragons helps regulate their balance. Organs in their inner ear (the semicircular canals mentioned above) help maintain orientation by measuring changes in the position of the liquid inside the canal using tiny hairs called cilia. The cilia send information to the brain to adjust the body’s position to remain level and balanced on various surfaces.
Do Bearded Dragons Shed Around Their Ears?
Bearded dragons do shed around their ears like they do the rest of their skin. It’s similar to the way they shed around their eyes and nostrils. It may take a little bit longer for them to lose the scales around their ears, but it’s best to leave the stuck shed alone and let it fall off naturally on its own.
See more: Do bearded dragons eat their own shed?
Caring for a bearded dragon’s ear holes isn’t as complicated as it may seem. There are only a few things to note:
- Never, ever pull on stuck pieces of shedding skin anywhere on a bearded dragon, but especially not in or around their ear. If there’s stuck skin, try to help by increasing the humidity levels in their enclosure. You could cause major damage to the tympanic membrane, even if you attempt to pull gently. Also, check out other options for helping your beardie shed here!
- You should actually just steer clear of touching or prodding bearded dragon ears in any case. Their ears are made up of incredibly delicate tissue that is easily damaged. This means no cotton swabs, no fingers, and no tweezers or foreign objects.
- Provide your bearded dragon with clean, fresh water for drinking and bathing, when appropriate. Dirty water can introduce bacteria that can get into your bearded dragon’s ears, and while the water itself isn’t harmful, bacteria can cause infection.
- Get familiar with the signs of ear infection in bearded dragons. An infected ear is easy to miss because of the lack of external components, so you should conduct a visual examination of the ears regularly.
Infected ears in bearded dragons can look like an irritated, spotted, swollen membrane and could exude pus or other discharge. Beardies may also lose their sense of balance or stop reacting to common sounds.
- If you notice any abnormalities with your bearded dragon’s ears or notice them exhibiting strange behavior, consult your exotic veterinarian immediately.
Q: Do bearded dragons have good hearing?
A: They have excellent hearing! Bearded dragon ears have evolved to hear potential predators and prey–and hear them well.
Q: What kinds of sounds can bearded dragons recognize?
A: They recognize all kinds of different sounds! Beardies will alert to sounds they recognize like feeder insects and water (and predators in the wild), but they may show curiosity at any odd noises in their environment. They can even be conditioned to recognize their names with consistent training and food association.
Q: Do bearded dragons get things stuck in their ear holes?
A: No, they shouldn’t. It’s easy to see why it would be a concern, but it isn’t a common occurrence for things to get lodged in a bearded dragon’s holes.
Q: Can bearded dragons get water in their ears?
Q: Can bearded dragons get ear injuries like humans?
A: Unfortunately, yes, bearded dragons can experience similar ear issues to those that humans face. They can get infections that can cause deafness or other serious complications if left untreated. They can also rupture their tympanic membranes just like humans can rupture their eardrums.
Final Thoughts on Bearded Dragon Ear Holes
To summarize, those bearded dragon holes you initially had questions about are just ears! They’re internal and don’t have much of an external component like you see on most animals.
Where we usually have cartilage and skin, hair, or fur, they simply have smooth holes on both sides of their head bordered with scales. They grant your bearded dragon sharp hearing and balance, and occasionally can hang on to shedding skin.
You should never attempt to insert any objects into (or pull objects from) your bearded dragon’s ears. Leave it to the professionals.
Interested in learning more cool facts about bearded dragons? Check out our full list of bearded dragon articles answering some of your most burning questions!