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What Is a Leatherback Bearded Dragon?

Leatherback bearded dragons will eat earthworms.
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  • Written By: Angie Bates
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2014
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A leatherback bearded dragon is a morph of a type of lizard called a bearded dragon. These lizards are a product of selective breeding, and although it is possible that they exist in the wild, they are primarily thought to be products of the pet trade. The leatherback morph, or mutation, creates smaller scales than those of a non-leatherback bearded dragon, there is a leather-like feel to the lizard's skin. Two leatherbacks might produce a silkback — or essentially scaleless — lizard.

The morph itself is the result of a mutated gene involved in scale development. The mutation inhibits proper scale growth, leaving the lizards with smaller, smoother scales. In addition to the leathery feel, colorings in leatherbacks usually are brighter. This is a heterozygous mutation, meaning that only one of the two alleles in the gene for scale production carries the mutation. When the gene is homozygous, which is when both alleles in the gene carry the mutation, a silkback bearded dragon is produced.

Sometimes called an Italian smoothie, the leatherback bearded dragon was first discovered by a breeder in Italy and since has become a popular pet choice in other areas of the world. There is an additional smoothie variation in the United States that seems to be the same morph simply under a different name, but it might have slightly thicker scales. These lizards generally are tan or yellowish but can be bred with bearded dragon color morphs to produce a variety of color combinations.

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Native to Australia, bearded dragons are about 16-20 inches (40.6-50.8 cm) long. They have triangular heads; wide, flat bodies; and long tails. Their bodies, necks and heads have rows of spikes along them. These lizards often flare the skin on their throats, which, as their name indicates, makes them look bearded. They usually live for about 10 years.

These reptiles generally are docile and show interest in human attention, so the leatherback bearded dragon often makes a good pet. Easily bred in captivity, there is little chance of obtaining a wild-caught leatherback bearded dragon. Bearded dragons are active during daylight hours.

A pet leatherback bearded dragon should be kept in a tank that holds 55-60 gallons (208-227 liters) and is lined with carpeting or sand. Omnivorous, they can be fed a variety of greens as well as insects, earthworms and pinkie mice. They need full-spectrum lighting, with a general daytime temperature kept at 78-88 degrees Fahrenheit (25.5-31 degrees Celsius), although at night, the temperature might fall to nearly 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). A warmer basking area, about 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit (35-37.7 degrees Celsius), also should also be provided.

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