The Bearded Dragon’s Third Eye: Anatomy and Purpose Explained

Bearded Dragons are fascinating reptiles and have a unique feature called the third eye, this photosensory organ works in conjunction with the pineal gland to help Bearded Dragons with a variety of functions. 

In this article, we’ll explore the third eye in detail, its benefits to Bearded Dragons, and how to properly care for it.

We’ll also discuss how the third eye can be protected to ensure the health and wellbeing of your pet.

What Is The Third Eye?

The third eye is a photosensory organ located on the top of a Bearded Dragons skull, between their two other eyes. 

It’s also known as the parietal, solar, or pineal eye. The way the third eye works is it communicates with the pineal gland instead of the optic center, unlike the other two eyes it isn’t as developed so is unable to see objects. It uses an alternative biochemical method to detect changes in light.

An annotated image of a Bearded Dragons head showing the location of the third eye.

Benefits Of The Third Eye

Thermoregulation

Due to Bearded Dragons being ectotherms, they’re unable to regulate their own body temperature. They rely on external heat sources to warm their body temperature and use shaded spots to cool down.

In the wild, the third eye detects the change in light to identify where the sun is, which is their heat source or it’ll detect the shady spots when they want to cool down.

Navigation

Scientific studies have shown, if the third eye of Bearded Dragons is covered or disoriented by random light flickering, they can lose their sense of direction. This is significant because Bearded Dragons rely on the sun as a compass to navigate their surroundings.

Hormone Production

As the third eye is connected to the pineal gland, when it senses a decrease in lighting it’ll communicate with the brain to initiate the process of a sleep cycle. The pineal gland, located within the brain, is responsible for producing melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

Scientific studies have shown the importance of melatonin compared to thermoregulation and reproduction.

Day And Night Schedule

Thanks to their third eye, Bearded Dragons are able to detect changes in light, which helps them establish healthy day and night routines.

This is why it’s important for us to replicate their natural habitat lighting schedule as best as possible. Providing 12-14 hours of light daily is perfect for a Bearded Dragon to build a circadian rhythm.

Seasonal Change

Thanks to the third eye, Bearded Dragons can sense changes in the seasons because of their ability to comprehend day lengths.

When days are shorter in the winter months, Bearded Dragons will prepare for brumation, the reptilian version of hibernation.

Protecting Your Bearded Dragon’s Third Eye

When it comes to protecting the third eye, you’ll need to ensure the environment is set to the parameters your Bearded Dragons requires.

Lighting

You’ll want a UVB tube light set up in the tank no closer than 6” to where the Bearded Dragon will be at their highest in the enclosure. This is usually their basking spot. I recommend reading the manufacturer label on your product as some differ in distancing to optimize their UVB output.

Temperature

You’ll want a temperature gradient throughout the tank ranging from 80°F on the cool side to a max of 100°F on the basking side of the enclosure.

Bearded Dragon Temperature Gradient Graph

You can monitor your temperature accurately using a digital thermometer.

Handling Your Bearded Dragon

In the wild, the third eye helps Bearded Dragons detect predators from above, they’ll sense the change in light from the predator’s shadow and immediately be alerted of its presence. This will then cause them to run erratically to evade the predator.

In captivity, a Bearded Dragon will react in the same way if you attempt to pick them up from above. You’ll want to calmly approach from the side when handling your beardie and ensure all four feet and their tail is supported at all times. 

Summary

The third eye communicates with the pineal gland and is responsible for several functions, including;

  • Assisting thermoregulation
  • Navigation
  • Hormone production
  • Building day and night routines
  • Sensing seasonal changes
  • Detecting predators

Remember, protecting the third eye is paramount to your Bearded Dragon’s health, maintaining proper lighting and heating within their habitat.