Typing Your Dragon

Color Morphs

Bearded Dragons come in all different colors and patterns. Normals are browns and dark earth tones, some light patches of white or off white. Some breeders give names to colors and patterns as a marketing tool. A red or orange Bearded Dragon may be called a Blood red or some people add their own titles to their colors…

Another morph is called “hypo” short for hypomelanistic. This simply means a reduced amount of melanin or black coloring. Many Bearded Dragons that have a light or pastel color will be sold as hypos. Those with almost no color and clear nails are often marketed as Leucistic.

Phenotype and genotype is the difference between what a Bearded Dragon looks like physically and what they are genetically. Just because a Bearded Dragon is a certain color, does not make him a particular morph. If two orange Bearded Dragons have a yellow offspring, even though the color is yellow, he is of orange lineage and will probably throw more orange babies than yellow. The yellow is a fluke. This is why people who breed for color charge more. They are selling animals that genetically have better odds of producing a particular color and a better chance that offspring will grow up that way too.

Hypos – Hypo Bearded Dragons aka Hypomelanistic.. Hypomelanism.. Hypos..

Hypomelanistic – “Hypo” means less and “melanistic” means pigmented. Black pigments are produced, but not transported and results in a lightly colored appearance compared to a standard colored Bearded Dragon. Some standard animals are lightly colored, but not a Hypo. They differ from true Hypo’s, because they lack the heritable genetic disorder that is transferred through generations. The difference is found within the genotype and phenotype. The genotype (genes) of a Hypo are completely different, while phenotype (the way they look like) can be almost identical.

How does a Bearded Dragon become hypomelanistic? Hypomelanism is caused by a malfunctioning melanin (pigment) production or its transport to pigmented cells (melanophores). This genetically determined disorder is called hypomelanism. This name is only to be used for animals (with 100% clear nails) originating from a hypo blood line, a dragon even with a single nail that is not clear should not be regarded as 100% hypo.

Heterozygous for Hypo (abbreviated to Het. Hypo) implies the presence of the Hypo gene within a Bearded Dragon, without showing it. The appearance is like a standard dragon with no clear nails, and has a darker pigment compared to a 100% Hypo. However, these animals are still interesting due to the presence of the Hypo gene. They are also lightly colored compared to standard colored Bearded Dragons, causing the colors to emerge better. Breeding a Het. Hypo with a 100% Hypo will result in a certain amount of 100% Hypo offspring. The rest of the offspring will be heterozygous (without the looks of a Hypo), carrying the Hypo gene.

How do you trust a breeder that the dragon is a het? Of course trust is an important issue when buying a Het. Hypo; you simply can’t see the Hypo gene and the seller can only give you their word. Asking details would help, but I must stress that this is all trust based.

Leatherbacks – What is a leatherback bearded dragon?

Leatherback bearded dragons are like normal bearded dragon morphs, but have an absence or reduction of the tubercles (rough scales) on the dragons back which give them a leathery like appearance. They are relatively expensive in the market because there are simply not many and usually the colors of a leatherback are sometimes greater than of a normal. This is due to the reduced tubercles, which make the colors show through better and are a line of bearded dragons I have come to love and specialize in.

The reduction of scales (tubercles) is consistent throughout the back of the leatherback and you don’t get partial because of the co-dominant trait. Essentially, you either have a leatherback or you don’t! There are varying qualities which are demonstrated later on.

The creation of the leatherbacks is not from generation of inbreeding, but from luck as a breeder, Allesandro from italy noticed a dragon that look different in his stock and bred it. The line eventually became what is known today as the Italian Leatherback. The genes were found to be Co-dominant where the offspring will result in approximately 1/2 regular scaled and 1/2 leatherback. This line of leatherbacks is visual so a leatherback is either a leatherback or is not. They are the “visual” hets/heterozygous for a homozygous superform known as the Silkbacks.

A leatherback bearded dragon does not need any additional care when compared to a normal dragon. They have the same habits such as eating and activity as regular dragons, they just have fewer scales.

Quality of a leatherback bearded dragon? There are different qualities / grades in leatherbacks, some are less smooth while others can be micro scaled. Usually you can tell the quality by looking at the side of the body near the side spikes. High quality leatherbacks will continue to have micro scales along this area, while others will appear to have a mixture of small and normal sized scales. Higher quality leatherbacks will also have a reduction in lateral spikes too.

There are other criteria which can govern the quality of your dragon, that include color intensity as well as other traits such as hypo and translucency.

Silkbacks – What is a Silkback bearded dragon?

A silkback bearded dragon is the scale less or “Silkback” version of a bearded dragon it is the super form of leatherback, also known as the homozygous form and a result of breeding two co-dominant (heterozygous aka visual hets) leatherback dragons together. However, the whole clutch will not be silkback, but approximately 25% and the rest are a mix of leatherbacks and normals.

In the breeder world, silkbacks are commonly misunderstood as being “dominant” form/gene of mixing two co-dominants (leatherbacks) together. However, this is incorrect because if the silkback gene was dominant and mixed with a normal dragon, all offspring should become silkbacks if the gene were dominant. Instead you will get leatherbacks, which makes the silkback gene homozygous co-dominant. The only known dominant gene for a bearded dragon is simply a normal dragon.

The lateral spines are also absent from these animals, they do look visually different to a normal bearded dragon and have a mixed reception in the reptile world. However, a lot of this is from the misunderstanding of how the silkback has come into being as many believe it’s a result of a generation of inbreeding, but in fact like the leatherback it was a result of a fluke.

Translucents – What is a Translucent Bearded Dragon?

Translucent bearded dragons are again a result of genetic disorder. In fact they were available years ago, but the genetic strength of this line was very week. However, after years of out crossing and increasing the strength of the bloodline translucent’s are one of the most visually stunning bearded dragons you can buy, especially translucent leatherbacks. Translucent dragons carry large pieces of translucent (transparent) skin. It’s most extreme in young animals where you can hold them up to a light and see the results for yourself, with age however, the skin will thicken, and the translucent appearance will reduce and remains to some extent (especially evident on the spikes).

Why are they translucent? The genetic disorder implies the lack of white pigments. In this case for translucents the iridophores and leucophores are missing…. in other words they lack white pigments. Therefore light is able to pass through, giving a clear translucent effect.

Also, the other visual trait of this line and one which I find most fascinating is the visual “black” eyes. This almost gives them an alien like appearence. A good quality translucent will have 100% black eyes and almost look glossy, but you can get translucent bearded dragons with normal looking or partial black eyes… aka Partial translucents. However, they will have the recessive gene for creating heterozygous or homozygous translucent offspring (depending on pairing). Unlike the translucent skin, which will reduce with age a translucent will never lose the black eyes.