Can bearded dragons drop and regrow their tails?

If you’re interested in animals of the reptilian variety, it’s likely that you’ve heard about how certain lizard species are able to lose (or, “drop”) their tails, and then regrow a brand new tail. But what about beardies you may ask? Can bearded dragons drop and regrow their tails?

Bearded dragons cannot drop and regrow their tails. Unlike other lizard species, bearded dragons’ tails perform a variety of important functions, and so they don’t have the defence mechanism called ‘autotomy’ which allows them to drop and regrow their tails.

So, bearded dragons do not have the ability to regrow their tails. But why is it that? And what functions do beardies’ tails perform that make them so important? Furthermore, if bearded dragons can regrow their tails if lost due to injury or amputation, what risks of injury or tail loss do bearded dragons actually face?

In this guide we’ll discuss these issues and help you to find the answers you’re looking for.

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Why can’t bearded dragons drop and regrow their tails?

Can bearded dragons drop and regrow their tails? No, bearded dragons are not adapted to perform this function, however it is a common function in other lizard varieties.

The process whereby certain lizards drop and regrow their tails is termed ‘caudal autotomy’ and ‘regeneration’. These adaptations are a stress response which allow the animal to protect themselves from predators or other perceived threats (for example, being grabbed by the tail). When this process occurs, the tail will usually continue to wriggle in order to distract the predator, giving the lizard the opportunity to make an escape for safety. This process occurs in lizard species where the tail is not an essential requirement for survival, such as iguanas, skinks and gecko species.

As already touched on, lizard varieties that rely on their tails for other functions, such as bearded dragons, are not adapted to perform caudal autotomy and regeneration. In other words, bearded dragons cannot drop and regrow their tails. In fact, bearded dragons rely on their tails for a number of functions, which are discussed further below.

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Can bearded dragon’s tails regrow after being injured or amputated?

Due to the fragility of their tails, it is reasonably common for bearded dragons to suffer at least some kind of injury to their tail during their lifetime. Tail injuries, or potentially even tail loss, can occur for a variety of reasons:

  • Tail bitten by other beardies: Bearded dragons live independently in their natural habitat, and therefore aren’t good at sharing their living spaces when in captivity. When sharing the same housing, aggression between males and females, or bullying between beardies of different sizes, tends to result in high incidences of bite injuries.
  • Tail bitten by other household pets: It is usually ok to have bearded dragons and other pets living within the same household. However, it is important to try and help the pets to become accustomed to, and comfortable in, each other’s presence. As any pet owner will know, co-mingling animals needs to be managed with caution, to avoid the risk of any misunderstanding and any consequential injury (for example, a bite to your beardie’s tail).
  • Fracture: Bearded dragon’s tails are long and fragile, which means that the individual bones are at risk of breaking apart. Fractures commonly occur when beardies suffer a fall. With tail fractures there is also the secondary risk of ischemia (restriction of blood supply), which can lead to the tail eventually dying.
  • Shedding problems: If your bearded dragon has good living conditions (quality lighting, a balanced diet, the right habitat setup) then shedding should be a simple process. However, occasionally beardies can not shed properly which results in pieces of the shed getting stuck. Shedding problems also give rise to risk of ischemia.
  • Tail rot: ‘Tail rot’ is a serious condition where an internal infection causes the bearded dragon’s tail to rot away. Tail rot usually arises due to trauma from being nipped, crushed or stood on, and will result in the infected area turning black. Advice from a vet should always be sought at this point, as tail rot left untreated can work its way up into the body and internal organs and cause serious health problems

So, can bearded dragon’s tails regrow after being injured or amputated? Unfortunately, the answer is no. As already discussed, bearded dragons do not have the ability to drop and regrow their tails like other lizard species do. This conclusion also applies when the tail is injured or amputated. This means that once a bearded dragon’s tail is lost, whether due to injury or amputation, it is gone for good and will not grow back.

If your bearded dragon loses its tail or suffers a tail injury, it could potentially be quite painful for your beardie, and you should seek immediate medical attention from a vet.

Credit: Jeremy Shantz

What functions do bearded dragons’ tails perform that makes them so important?

Bearded dragons’ tails are important for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Balance: Just like cats, bearded dragons’ tails are vital for their balance. Whether walking, climbing or balancing on a branch, their tails assist them to stabilize their body and maintain perfect balance.
  • Social signals: Bearded dragons use their tails to communicate their mood with other bearded dragons by placing it in certain positions. This may help your beardie to avoid conflict, and even to communicate mating signals to other beardies of the opposite sex.
  • Protection from predators and other beardies: When a bearded dragon loses its tail it immediately appears to be much smaller and weaker, and therefore far less threatening, to predators. The same rule applies for other bearded dragons, who might even bully or attempt to kill beardies that are smaller than them. This presents a risk for bearded dragons who have lost their tails and live in close proximity to other bearded dragons.

For the reasons noted above bearded dragons do not have the ability to drop their tails as a defence mechanism. In the absence of this, bearded dragons rely on other defence mechanisms, such black bearding (when the scales of a beardie’s chin and neck turn black to deter threats), biting, tail whipping and puffing themselves up to make themselves look bigger.

Can bearded dragons drop and regrow their tails?

The ultimate conclusion to that question is no, bearded dragons do not have the ability to drop and regrow their tails.

This is because their tails perform several important functions such as assisting with balance, communication and predatorial defence.

Bearded dragons also have the other defence mechanisms of blackbearding, biting, tail whipping and puffing, which mean they don’t need to be able to drop their tails to confuse predators.

Bearded dragons are also unable to regrow their tails if injured or amputated. If your bearded dragon loses a part of its tail for any reason you should book an appointment with your vet.