Skip to main content

Reptiles like to flex a little muscle

Bearded dragon with a black neck.
Bearded dragon with a black neck.

Every now and then my bearded dragon decides that it is high time to flex a little muscle and jumps around his cage for a few hours head bobbing and cocking his head.  A group of U.S. Researchers in Puerto Rico studying Anole the lizards, discovered that lizards perform exercises such as push ups and head bobbing in low-visibility conditions to gain the attention of the lizards they wanted to send a territorial message to.

It turns out that my lizard has a reason to exercise...he was showing off.  

The territorial display of Bearded Dragons are akin to anoles in that they head bob, inflate a flap of inky black skin beneath their neck or arm wave when approached by another lizard. Push ups are another matter. Anoles typically claim a spot on a tree trunk by bobbing their heads and puffing up the brightly-colored skin under their throats. But this signal can often be obscured by dense vegetation and poor lighting. Researchers found that anoles performing push-ups dramatically increased the message's effectiveness in these conditions.

The researchers made the discovery by building a hand-painted robot that resembled an anole. They placed it on a tree trunk and programmed it to display both with and without push-ups before conveying its territorial message. "With push-ups, the lizards would orientate toward the robots within the first one or two movements of the alert display," says Dr. Terry Ord, researcher at Harvard University and the University of California-Davis and the lead author of the study.

So the next time your scaly friend decides to run amok in his or her cage, keep your eyes peeled for this unique and quite masculine behavior.  Push ups, fantastic leaps and head bobbing are all ways for them to tell you that the home you've built for them is just right...and ALL theirs.


  • Ali 5 years ago

    well there u go! Ive been head bobbing with my free ranging resident water dragon for years with us both head bobbing at each other.he is probably tellin me to get lost.

  • Ali 5 years ago

    ps recently while taking pics of my old dragon mate i threw a light twig into the water. The dragon leap into the water and circled & swam back pickin up the twig in his mouth on the way back to shore. Glad i got that picture!!