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Bearded Dragon Lizards Are Smarter Than You Might Think!

October 1, 2014



Anyone who owns a bearded dragon knows that they are fairly smart reptiles. But did you know that they are smarter than you may have previously thought?

 


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Researchers at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom and Hungary wanted to find out if bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) could follow another bearded dragon’s lead in figuring out how to open a wire door to gain access to its food. The researchers placed the trained test subject into the enclosure with seven other bearded dragons and observed them as they observed the trained beardie open the door with its claws and head and gain entry to the food room. All of the untrained bearded dragons were able to successfully open the door and get their mealworm treat after watching the trained bearded dragon. Four bearded dragons, which served as the control group and did not witness the trained bearded dragon open the door,  failed to open the door to gain access to the mealworm.

This experiment helps to dispel the common notion that reptiles aren’t as smart as those animals that are “higher” on the evolutionary chain. The capability to learn through what scientists call “true imitation” is thought to be unique in humans and advanced primates, not reptiles.

 

bearded dragon

gina cioli/i-5 studio

Bearded dragons are able to imitate other bearded dragons to open doors.

“The ability to learn through imitation is thought to be the pinnacle of social learning and long considered a distinctive characteristic of humans. However, nothing is known about these abilities in reptiles,” lead researcher Dr. Anna Wilkinson from the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, UK said in a statement.

“This research suggests that the bearded dragon is capable of social learning that cannot be explained by simple mechanisms - such as an individual being drawn to a certain location because they observed another in that location or through observational learning. The finding is not compatible with the claim that only humans, and to a lesser extent great apes, are able to imitate.”

In addition to the University of Lincoln, researchers involved in the study came from Eötvös University in Hungary, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna.


John B. Virata keeps a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata 

 

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