Thanks to mutations, herpetologists can selectively breed bearded dragons to produce interesting visual changes different from the basic bearded dragon appearance.
That’s how different bearded dragon morphs came to be. Some were bred for different generations until the desired appearance was achieved.
Are you familiar with these morphs? There is quite a number, and herpetologists are still breeding them.
Today we’ll focus on bearded dragon morphs. We will begin by understanding what bearded dragon morphs are and then proceed to learn the different types of dragon morphs.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
What are Bearded Dragon Morphs?
Bearded dragon morphs are dragons that have been selectively bred to create a specific visual appearance. It can be a color, pattern, or combination of both.
A bearded dragon’s color, pattern, and scalation result from the interaction of different genes and not a single gene. Genes are units of heredity containing development instructions that are passed to offspring.
Different genes interact to create traits. These traits can be color, size, or behavior in bearded dragon morphs.
What stands out in a bearded dragon morph is its appearance. Experts have discovered several mutations responsible for bearded dragons’ appearance. A mutation is an alteration that occurs within an organism’s DNA and can be transferred to future generations.
So when a herpetologist breeds two dragons with different mutations, these mutations are transferred to the offspring, and we get a new morph. However, it may not happen after one breeding. Often, herpetologists need to selectively breed dragons with different mutations for several generations.
What Makes a Morph?
For there to be a new bearded dragon morph, there are two main requirements. First, the appearance of the dragon should be unique, with a significant difference from the usual color or pattern.
Secondly, this appearance should be an inheritable trait. There are different types of inheritable traits, dominant, co-dominant, simple recessive, and traits that are attained via artificial selection.
Both dominant and co-dominant mutations are produced when only one parent is the gene carrier. But as for simple recessive mutations, both parents must be gene carriers. The last inheritance is quite complex as similar bearded dragons are bred for several generations until the desired appearance is attained.
So we can say what makes a bearded dragon morph is a specific trait or traits based on its genetic lineage.
How can I tell what morph my bearded dragon is?
If I’m being honest, it will be hard to tell what morph your dragon is yourself unless you’re well-informed about existing morphs.
You need to know all the available morphs and be able to tell the difference between them. From color and pattern to scalation because while some morphs stand out because of their color or pattern, others are distinct due to their scalation.
The easiest way would be to find an expert in this field to help you. And again, only a qualified herpetologist can do the job well, as they know the nitty gritty about bearded dragon morphs.
How Many Bearded Dragon Morphs are There?
Herpetologists have produced over 20 bearded dragon morphs. It’s hard to give a specific number to how many dragon morphs are available as herpetologists are still creating new ones from the existing morphs.
So while we already have about 20 morphs in the dragon world, new ones are coming up, and others are yet to be confirmed.
10 Types of Bearded Dragon Morphs
Here are some of the available bearded dragon morphs:
1. Standard Morph
Standard, also known as classic morph, is often considered the most basic dragon. This is because, unlike most morphs, this morph looks more like its wild counterpart.
Most of them have large triangular heads and backs full of small spikes. They are the most common bearded dragon morphs, and I think most of us have come across them. They come in different colors, like yellow and red, with orange and black markings.
Since they are readily available, getting one is easy and may cost less than the rare bearded dragon morphs.
If you want something that looks like the bearded dragon in the wild, the standard or classic morph is your ideal solution.
2. Zero Morph
Zero morphs are one of the completely patternless morphs. Among the three patternless mutations, zeros are the latest discovery. They are also the most beautiful of the three mutations, though this may vary with opinion.
They come in an off-white silver color but can also come in a dark shade of gray or silver. However, their color may change depending on temperature. Generally, their color lightens as they warm up.
Like the other three patternless mutations, zeros have a solid color throughout their bodies. They look so different if placed in the middle of other patterned bearded dragons. Imagine a zero among several leatherbacks; it will stand out.
I think that’s what makes them beautiful to those who see them as the most beautiful. They also appeal to those who prefer one solid color instead of a mixture of characters. But if you like patterned beardies, this morph will not appeal to you.
3. Translucent Morph
This morph derives its name from its transparent scales and spikes. These dragons have a recessive mutation that causes solid black eyes and partially see-through skin.
Translucent hatchlings have a blue stomach resulting from the black lining of their body showing through the translucent skin. Sometimes the blue color appears in other areas, like the skin above the eyes. However, this color fades as they age and their skin thickens, but a few retain it into adulthood.
Trans dragons’ eyes also change throughout their lives. Their eyes can go from solid black to normal-looking eyes within a few days. They may keep changing for some time until they settle on a final appearance. The reason for this remains unknown.
The transgene in translucent morph is among the oldest mutations and is spreading to different corners. The common myth that breeding two translucent dragons results in a weak hatchling is wrong. Otherwise, why would there be healthy adult translucent dragons?
4. Leatherback Morph
A morph can be unique for different reasons, such as its pattern or the position of the scales. Leatherbacks are one of the scalation morphs, as they have smooth scales, giving them a unique appearance.
Two different mutations are linked to the leatherback morph. The common one is co-dominant, which means its effect is stronger in dragons that receive the trait from both parents than in those who receive it from a single parent.
The other mutation is recessive. Leatherback dragons have smooth, uniform scales with a row of spikes running down each side of their bodies. They may also have spikes on the beard or head but not on any other part of their body.
However, like most traits, there are variations among leatherback morphs. Some bearded dragons may have small spikes on the back that look like enlarged scales. Such dragons may look slightly different than other leatherback morphs, but they belong in the same class.
5. Wero Morph
Wero is a combination of the witblits and zero morphs. A wero bearded dragon comes to life when the witblits and zero morphs are bred, and the hatchling receives its traits from both parents.
They look like zeros but have splotches of dark color on their tails and backs. Like witblits and zeros, these dragons are completely patternless except for their splotches. These dark splotches may occur anywhere in the body, but often near the tail.
6. Silkback Morph
The silkback morph is related to the leatherback morph. Leatherbacks inherit their traits from one parent. But bearded dragons that inherit the co-dominant leatherback from two parents are silkbacks.
Unlike leatherbacks, silkbacks have no scales and no spikes. They have thin, smooth skin, which is generally sensitive. Due to the nature of their skin, these dragons are prone to skin issues, and their delicate skin is subject to breakage.
Reptile skins are meant to protect the interior from exposure to harmful rays or anything in general. Silkbacks’ skins lack a thick protective layer, making them susceptible to infections. These dragons need regular baths and lotion to help with shedding.
Sometimes you’ll see a silkback missing the end of a tail or even toes. Without the protective skin layer, their shedding skin is prone to tightening around some body parts, cutting off circulation. Their skin can dry quickly, and all these may result in the loss of body parts like the toes.
With such challenges, experts believe it’s unethical to produce silkbacks as they are prone to health problems relating to their skin.
7. Hypomelanistic Morph
Hypomelanism means less melanin. Melanin is a pigment produced by animals that gives the skin its color.
Hypomelanistic morphs have a hypo trait that causes them to produce less melanin. As a result, these dragons have clear nails that lack the usual brown stripe that runs down the top of every nail.
This trait also reduces melanin levels in the scales, making the other colors more vibrant. The hypo trait is a recessive mutation, so a bearded dragon will only display most of these features if it acquires the trait from both parents.
But if the hatchling gets the trait from one parent, it will carry the trait but display less or zero visual features. But though they produce less melanin, the difference is not significant enough to cause serious health concerns, like in albino bearded dragons.
Albino beardies produce no melanin, hence the severe skin conditions. This mutation compromises how they should absorb the sun’s radiation, which helps create special vitamins in the skin.
8. Dunner Morph
Naturally, bearded dragons’ stripes start at their spine and run to each side. The Dunner mutation breaks this pattern by causing spots.
The Dunner morph has a beautiful, outstanding pattern. Unlike in other dragons, where the spikes point towards the belly, Dunner’s beard has tips that point out to the sides. In addition, scales on their underbellies point in different directions, causing a disorganized look.
The spikes and scales are slightly raised and textured on other parts of the body due to the misdirection. Dunners have a unique behavioral trait where they hold food in the back of the throat for a long time before swallowing it.
This unexplained behavior sometimes causes an issue in dunner babies. Instead of swallowing the food, they will hold it for hours in the back of the throat and then regurgitate it. However, as they grow, they outgrow this behavior, so they may hold the food, but it won’t cause a negative effect.
9. Witblits Morph
Witblits are completely patternless. The term “witblits” means white lighting, and a breeder in South Africa discovered the morph.
Though their name suggests they are white, witblits morphs are not necessarily white. Actually, this name makes less sense with the discovery of zeros that have an off-white silver color.
The first witblits bearded dragons had a relatively brown earth tone. Over the years, this color has improved to a sandy orange.
However, witblits can come in other solid colors. They appear more mutated than hypomelanistic, so they are not like zeros but are also pale.
The only way to differentiate these two is that witblits morphs are brownish, while zeros are silver. Some breeders say witblits look like mud, while zeros look like money. If you think about it, this makes some sense in terms of their visual appearance.
So, don’t confuse the two.
10. German Giant Morph
The German giant bearded dragon morphs look like the standard or classic morph. The main difference is size, as German giant dragons are larger than other bearded dragons, hence the name “giant.”
Due to this, they need more space than our normal dragons. So if you have such a dragon, you will need to get a big enclosure that caters to its needs while leaving room to install other equipment.
What is the Rarest Bearded Dragon Morph?
The paradox bearded dragon is the rarest morph, yet one of the most beautiful. As the name suggests, its visual appearance is a paradox, as no one can clearly explain what these dragons look like.
The only way to describe them is that they have a plain color and patches of other bright colors. Simply put, they look like paint was splattered on them. Actually, these patches don’t show until after a few months of life.
The zero morph is also rare. Such beardies have no pattern on their bodies, hence the name. They are exceptional, especially since most dragons have stripes or other patterns on their bodies.
Another rare mutation is the albino bearded dragon. These are bearded dragons that lack melanin in their skin, so they appear whitish with red eyes. They are rare because they don’t survive to adulthood due to their health condition.
Common Bearded Dragon Colors
Some people confuse bearded dragon colors with dragon morphs. What I mean is that some people will assume that a specific color is a base for determining a bearded dragon morph.
Well, this is not the case. As I said, what makes a morph is the inheritable trait or traits. Mutations are what make a morph, not necessarily its color. So while color and pattern may play a role in the visual appearance of a bearded dragon, they’re not a basic determinant of a dragon’s morph.
That said, some of the common bearded dragon colors include:
Most dragons will have patterns with the above colors, so don’t necessarily expect to find a dragon with one of these as a solid color.
Most bearded dragon morphs derive their name from the mutation that makes them unique. As I said, mutations are changes that occur in DNA and cause visual changes. These mutations can be passed on to future generations, and that’s how herpetologists produce different morphs.
For its visual features to be more vibrant, a bearded dragon should acquire the gene responsible for this feature from both parents. If the dragon acquires the gene from only one parent, it may carry the trait but show no visual features.
Well, now you know all about bearded dragon morphs, particularly the different types available. This information and help from a herpetologist will help you figure out your dragon morph or choose a morph with features that most appeal to you.