Warning – You will yawn when reading this article and it’s not why you think. I’m simply going to ask you the question, when was the last time your bearded dragon yawned? Is that what it was doing and was it because it was so sleepy from a long night of bearded dragon drunkenness the night before? A barely awake Raise A Paw asks, do reptiles yawn?
Interestingly enough, yawning is something that science doesn’t have a definite answer on just yet. The why’s of yawning aren’t clear but what is clear, for all species is that some form of yawning exists in all vertebrates. Additionally, the one thing that scientists can confirm is that yawning is contagious though they aren’t sure why.
Therefore, yes reptiles do in fact yawn but it is believed that it has less to do with being sleepy and more to do with trying to cool their core body temperature. The intake of air that’s drawn in when a yawn takes place, aids in cooling down a reptiles brain and therefore its core body temperature. Additionally, snakes will often demonstrate a yawn-like behavior as a means of realigning their jaws after eating.
Scientists have also found that yawning is observed among predator and prey species alike. As yawns are contagious, amongst predators the purpose of a yawn might be to encourage the overall group to take sleep so that all of its members can be rested and prepared for an attack on their prey later on. Amongst prey, the purpose of a yawn is thought to encourage all members of the group to fall asleep at the same time thereby reducing the risk that any one member of the group might be sleeping alone leaving it vulnerable to attack by it’s now well-rested predator.
The next time you see one of your reptiles yawn, use it as an opportunity to view what’s going on inside of their mouth both as a means of exploration and to make sure that everything looks normal. Just don’t fall asleep while you’re doing it.