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Does diet contribute to pyramiding.

Discussion in 'Advanced Tortoise Topics' started by Anyfoot, Apr 6, 2017.

  1. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    Something I would like to here others opinions on so I can get my own train of thought correct please.

    Regarding pyramiding, there are generally 2 thoughts on the subject to stop pyramiding from happening, some say diet, some say hydration.
    Actually I think we all agree on the hydration part, methods of hydration can be different from high humidity to forced soaks. For this discussion we don't need to get bogged down with hydration methods.
    The diet related to pyramiding gets kicked out so easy "it has nothing to do with pyramiding". I'm struggling to understand why the diet is not part of the pyramiding problem as well as hydration.

    I'll ATTEMPT to explain my thoughts on the subject.

    In captivity our torts get food fed to them on a plate, I don't mean literally on a plate, they have a good rich food source supplied to them every day, not like in the wild where times can be hard, when times are good in the wild maybe it's still never as good as what we offer 365 days of the yr in captivity. If our torts in captivity are getting more rich foods than what naturally happens in the wild then they must be growing faster in captivity.
    Hydration and growth rate must go hand in hand. When it's dry and arid in the wild the growth slows right down, maybe even stop. When it's wet and foods are in abundance they grow faster with good hydration.
    If hydration and growth rate have to have a ratio to grow a smooth tortoise then diet must come into it because diet dictates growth rate.
    So let's say soaking our torts every day is the ultimate way of hydrating our torts, this soaking method may overcome our overfeeding of rich foods in captivity. Yeah the tort grows fast because of an abundance of rich foods, but we are also keeping up with the fast growth by providing soaks to keep them well hydrated.
    If another keeper is very cautious and only feeds their tortoise foods that are not rich(and maybe even limit the amount) then the tort grows very slowly, this keeper may get away with just having good humidity to keep the hydration in line with growth rate.

    If I lived in Columbia and had wild hatchling redfoots wandering on my land in their natural habitat, and I started putting piles of rich foods down, like kale,bananas and chicken this must have an impact on their natural hydration to growth ratio, I've just upset the balance by giving them foods to grow too fast in their climate.

    Lets say I owned a plot of land in Majorca where hatchling Hermann's wandered on my land and I started putting piles of alfalfa, broccoli, kale, spinach and the odd strawberry down, surely I've just increased their growth rate and taken the growth rate out of their natural growth to hydration ratio.
    In both these cases have I just introduced the chance of pyramiding in wild torts?
    The worst case would be to offer these foods during the dry season and the best case would be to offer these foods during wet season to the wild hatchlings wandering on my land.
    If I picked up these hatchlings on my land and soaked them every day for 15mins, have I just corrected my introducing rich foods so the hydration to growth ratio is back on par.

    Thanks.
  2. saginawhxc

    saginawhxc Well-Known Member

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    While I think that hydration and humidity levels can absolutely "solve" pyramiding, I also think that what you are arguing here is correct and have said similar things myself.

    I suspect and often argue on the fb groups that at certain hydration and humidity levels the ratio no longer is relevant.

    I do think if you were to head to an area that has a definitive dry season and feed foods rich in nutrients and protein, then yes, you would likely introduce pyramiding into a wild population.

    So I don't think it's technically correct to say that diet has nothing to do with pyramiding, but I instead usually argue that it is such a small part of the puzzle that it is borderline irrelevant.
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  3. Cowboy_Ken

    Cowboy_Ken Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    ALFALFA,=This legume is very high in protein, and although a little will not harm a tortoise, it is best avoided.

    BROCCOLI,=Broccoli contains goitrogens that interfere with thyroid activity and could damage the liver and kidneys. Therefore, although Broccoli is not actually toxic, you are advised to not feed it to your tortoise.

    KALE,= Kale has a high calcium content and only half the oxalic acid of dandelions, making it a potentially nutritious food.
    Unfortunately, like all the brassicas, it is also high in goitrogens (which interfere with iodine uptake, resulting in thyroid problems). However, Kale also has a high iodine content, which lessens the goitrogen effect and it is therefore acceptable to feed to your tortoise in moderation, especially in winter with non-hibernating tortoises, when fresh weeds are scarce.
    SPINACH=Spinach contains a high level of calcium, but it also contains oxalic acid which binds with calcium in the diet and prevents the tortoise from absorbing and using it. In addition, it possesses a high level of calcium oxalate crystals which contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Some of the calcium oxalate is in the form of needle-shaped crystals called raphides, and when consumed in large amounts these can irritate the skin and mucous membranes in the mouth and throat.
    So although Spinach is not toxic as such, and small amounts are unlikely to cause a tortoise any great damage, given the potential it has to limit calcium intake and cause internal irritation, we do not recommend that people feed it to their tortoises.
    and the odd STRAWBERRY =
    Older leaves develop toxins, so only offer young leaves as part of a varied diet and never the fruit, unless your tortoise is a tropical fruit-eating species. Contains tannins.
    Often in the past, feeding canned dog or cat food was recommended as well as other misguided information was passed down to keepers to the point that even many zoos were caring for their tortoises incorrectly.
    One of the wonderful aspects of this tortoise community here at the forum is that we all equally share our pains and our gains regarding the raising of tortoises. For instance in regard to an idea you postulated concerning feeding wild hatchlings and this putting their growth food ratio all catty-wompus and out of sorts I need to point out that most tortoises in their native range are endangered either critically or at the least at a threatened level. This in and of itself would produce the very situation you would be providing by offering abundant food to hatchlings, (less competition for food resources=more proper food for the remaining native tortoises. Food/growth ratio all thrown out with the trash. Yet we still don't find real wild tortoises with pyramiding present.
    My conclusion is that pyramiding is caused by a lack of hydration which leads to the death of cells on the outside ring of the scutes. This repeated live/die cycle continues until the cells just keep piling up on each other creating a pyramid. Hope this helps you figure it out. Remember, I've never seen a smooth sulcata smoke tobacco, but this doesn't convince me that pyramiding is caused by tortoises that do not smoke so I won't be teaching any of mine to pick up the habit soon to remain smooth. I'm hopping spelling and grammar we're all good in this thread, it's much too long for me to proof read it all.
  4. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Ken, an interesting read as always.
    New word coined. 'cattywompus'. :D

    Never thought of more food to share out because there are less wild tortoise today. Good point, this could alter the quantity of food not the quality.

    You haven't seen my randy male redfoot, he's always a smokin. :p
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  5. GBtortoises

    GBtortoises Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    You can't compare foods fed in captivity and the same foods fed in a natural (wild) condition because it is not only the quality of diet that determines an animals growth. It is also very much their surrounding environment and the adversities that they must endure in order to survive. Or the lack of. Making that comparison is comparing "apples and oranges".
    In captivity tortoises are generally pampered with an over abundance of highly nutritional foods on a constant basis. Their living conditions are "ideal" (deemed by us the keepers) and they have no real survival struggles such as droughts, floods, fires, farming, famine or predation.
    In the wild one or most of those factors exist on a daily basis. They don't come out and gorge themselves on piles of food and lay around in the sun for hours on end. The environmental adversities that they've evolved to endure also determine their growth and survival from season to season.
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  6. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    Yep. Agree with all this.
    So does our constant supplying of high nutritional foods contribute to pyramiding.

    What your saying is that some natural circumstances brohibit a constant supply of good diet in the wild, the easiest example is drought, if we fed a tortoise high nutritional diet during a drought what would happen if anything to that tortoises Carapace?
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  7. GBtortoises

    GBtortoises Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    In most areas of the world natural food sources, meaning those not cultivated or altered in any way by man, are available based on seasonal growth and climate conditions that may alter that growth. Drought being a major alteration to food growth and availability. Animals like tortoises that don't travel vast areas in search of food must deal with the conditions within their range. We humans are guilty of treating animals like we think and act ourselves. We think every other living thing has to eat a big meal every day, sometimes more than once a day. For mammals and birds, that produce their own internal energy, this is somewhat true. We need to eat much more often to maintain normal bodily functions. This is not true of reptiles and amphibians. Just speaking of tortoises, they can go for very long periods without food and in some situations without much water or moisture. They've adapted to survive drought conditions as well as other harsh adversities. During this time of minimal activity, in some cases dormancy (aestivation), it's very doubtful that any growth takes place. The body concentrates on surviving, not thriving. If you feed a tortoise highly nutritional food during a long period of drought you're probably going to see very little to no growth, good or bad. You're just going to enable that animal to better survive the drought conditions. While it may be eating well, it still needs regular hydration. The higher nutritional diet is probably going to provide the minimal amount of hydration the tortoise's body needs to maintain it's ability to process the food and pass wastes. So in reality you may not be helping it. The tortoise might be better off instinctually aestivating which causes it's bodily functions to greatly decrease and conserve. Very much like it does in hibernation.
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  8. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for your time and an explaination to your thoughts @GBtortoises.
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  9. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    We do see pyramided tortoises in the wild, in their natural range. Especially in assurance colonies, or pens locals keep to later sell or eat the animal. I feel both are attributed to faster growth in drier conditions. I do not share the belief that diet has anything to do with pyramiding other than if abundant food is offered in dry conditions that would not allow nutritious food to be growing there naturally. It takes so little of the food value of what is eaten to allow for proper keratin growth, that you would have to literally starve a tortoise to effect keratin growth.

    I see it so often referred to that tortoises in their natural range are in optimal conditions! I don't agree. I believe tortoises in their natural range are in optimal conditions perhaps 2-3 months out of the year, and in some years, not even close to that. The rest of the time, they have developed ways to hide from and escape their conditions they are living in. I also believe tortoise grow fast in the wild, but only a few months out of the year. Those months are wet enough to stimulate rich, nutritious plant growth and the tortoises are taking advantage of that abundance. In captivity, a fast growing sulcata may add 15% of it's weight a month, a 100g tortoise will be 535g in a year, and 2800g in two years. In the wild a tortoise will only grow like that maybe two months out of the entire year. The rest of the year it hardly grows at all! So it would take 10 - 12 years to reach the same size. And it is the same wet time of year that will grow plants that also provides the humid puddles and hides to keep the shell hydrated while growing in that time of plenty. So, its not slow growth vs fast, its fast growth followed by no growth most of the year.

    Now feed that tortoise when the "natural conditions" are too dry to grow fresh, green, nutritious food, and that dries out the new keratin growth too quickly and you will get tortoises that indeed pyramid - in their home range. Have an abnormal year where rains come sporadically where plant growth occurs, but the area dries out much quicker than normal years in between storms, and you will have wild tortoises start to pyramid.

    So tortoises in the wild do get very nutritious foods - its just a couple months out of the year that conditions allow that nutritious food to grow. And those same conditions provide the humid areas a fast growing tortoise needs. Those same fast growing plants, are drawing water up their stems through the roots, and creating a nice humid hide for the tortoise who pushes deep into the root ball for the bulk of the time when not eating. An puddles to soak in. And more moisture in the burrows.

    And for @Cowboy_Ken I agree with much of what you are saying. However, my conclusion different in that it is the edges of the scute that is the only place new keratin is laid down in a growing tortoise. A scute is not living cells, once the keratin is fully formed. Just as our fingernails and hair is not living cells once formed. It is only the newly forming keratin at the place of deposition that is living. And that new keratin if dried too quickly hardens and forces the new growth that is still occurring at that edge to expand downward, instead of swelling and developing level to the previous ring. In comparative analysis, you will see a pyramided tortoise has had the edges of the scute pushed DOWN flattening the overall profile of the tortoise. Scutes are not raised up, but valleys are created at every seam. The biggest valleys created where the carapace is exposed to the most drying - the top scutes the most, the costals, next, and least on the marginals. Ever notice how many people on the forum will comment on a totally smooth sulcata or leopard - how nice and high the dome looks?
  10. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Mark.
    I agree with everything you said.
    Doesn't this paragraph prove that diet plays a role. A continuous supply of quality diet gives a continuous fast(faster than wild) growth, so because we keepers need to keep up with that continuous faster growth we supply a super hydrated situation to keep growth and hydration on par(so the new keratin stays supple and grows smooth as the tort grows faster than it would in the wild). Have we keepers by excessively feeding our tortoises created a situation where they are growing faster in captivity than in the wild, so we have to super hydrate them to bring back on par the growth rate and hydration.

    The fact our torts grow faster in captivity SHOULDN'T have anything to do with pyramiding.
    Let's say in the wild a tortoise undergoes 2 seasons, wet and dry. The wet season is 3 months long and the dry season is 9 months old. If we imitate the 3 month long period for 12 months a yr in captivity then our torts in theory grow 4 times faster and at a smooth rate.
    I picked out super foods in my first post on a purpose.
    If hydration and growth rate have to be on par to get smooth growth are we on the limit in captivity of keeping both in sync. Is this why we see some with minor pyramiding and some smooth with the same care. Have we taken hydration to the maximum we can by offering high humidity, daily soaks and wetting the Carapaces. Have we exceeded the maximum par for our hydration techniques with our captive diets.
    If we add a scale of 1 to 3 for hydration and for growth rate. 3 being the best hydration and the fastest growth rate.
    For example in the wild....
    1 could be drought and no tortoise growth.
    2 could be arid with low quality foliage and slow tortoise growth.
    3 could be wet season(puddle galore, high humidity and heavy rainfall) with foliage/fruits at its best and fast tortoise growth.
    All 3 examples maintain growth rate on par to hydration levels maintaining smooth growth.
    Back to our captivity techniques, we've copied the hydration method of the wet season, but have we exceeded the on par growth by offering super rich foods that don't exist in the wild even in wet season.

    Right wheres those head ache tablets. :D

    One last random question. If a wild tort at 4 yrs old measures 4" SCL and a captive tort at 1 yr old measures 4" SCL. Have both torts used the same amount of Vitamin D(D3) ?
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  11. ZEROPILOT

    ZEROPILOT Well-Known Member TFO Supporter Platinum Supporter

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    I'm open for any theory or fact.
    My seven equal aged and south Florida grown tortoises show from no to moderate pyramiding with the SAME humidity, food and temperature.
    What would make a few more susceptible, I have no clue.
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  12. eric joranson

    eric joranson Well-Known Member

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    that would indicate some sort of genetic disposition for it So if the trait is there; it probably had some sort of function in the wild. Triggered by some environmental signal; possible to reduce reproduction during a period of adverse climate/ food source conditions. As some sort of recessive gene; it would appear in some and not in others. <---- just a late night at the pc theory.
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  13. Big Charlie

    Big Charlie Well-Known Member

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    I think diet might have something to do with it. I raised Charlie in an open chamber, with drying heat lamps, and no added humidity, in an arid climate. He had daily or nearly daily soaks for the first year or so, and then nothing after that. At age 5 he moved outdoors, again in an arid climate, although he did have a burrow part of the time. He is fairly smooth at 18 years old. Early on, I fed him mostly weeds. That is perhaps the only thing I did differently.
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  14. polDurna

    polDurna New Member

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    Well, by the sounds of these posts, I was apparently more intuitive than I thought about my RFs.
    Not having a clue when I bought my first one what pyramiding was or that most commercial foods were for grassland torts, I decided to "spoil" my RF with fresh foods. My DD (then 14) asked me what would they eat "at home"? So we found out where home was, chose a mountain forest in the classic RF range near the "top" of the Amazon Basin and said "this is Home" so: What do they have for food? When do they get rained on? When is it (how) hot? When is it (how) cold? How far do they wander from day to day? and we planned PokeyHontus' captive life around what we learned (we didn't make it to tortoise sites online for about 4 months). When I got to a site that had a big thing on Pyramiding I freaked out! My RF was dying of Malnutrition! but then I looked at her shell closer and noticed that the bumpy parts of her scoutes were not meeting at the edges, the new growth was flat in between the bumps. I asked our local vet ("you have a WHAT?!? you want me to TREAT?!") and then decided I had learned more than he knew. But the info I could NOT find was what healthy growth after Pyramiding looked like. So for a while we had PokeyHontus on as close of a diet as she would find on or near the ground in the Pongo Canyon of Brazil, we "rained & puddled her when WeatherBug said "Home" rained and her Scoutes seemed to stay flattened out. Then we sent her to summer camp with someone (DS then 17) who assured me she would be tended as if she were in our care. When PokeyHontus came back from summer camp she had a raised ridge around her scoutes flat growth. - I questioned DS and learned that he had NOT tended PokeyHontus, but had left her in the care of the camp Nature Director who had put her on this "awesome" pellet diet and kept her in an unused horse stall with a raised baseboard around the doors. Needless to say PokeyHontus will never go to camp again. In the time since her stay at summer camp we have put her back on her "Home" regimen and her scoutes have flattened out again. When we went to get PokeyHontus a roommate we went back to the same store chain and got a RF that was the same caprice length as PokeyHontus but Pongose' had more Pyramiding height ( probably due to having been kept the same amount of time PH had been living with us in the pet store). In the year or so that we have had Pongose' her scoutes are beginning to have a noticeable flat growth ring. My conclusions of all of this is that collectively we all have a lot more to figure out about the fine line between "pet care" and optimal living conditions. I am now only 5 yrs learning, and still looking for reasonable and definable answers, I am glad I wandered in! Thank you for helping me not feel so lost.

    Attached Files:

  15. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    What happens in the wild is a matter of much debate and speculation. I've seen so much harm come to tortoises, and continue to see it to this day, because of our speculation about the wild, and our attempts to duplicate what we think it is. I think its a good thing to try to learn. I think its a good thing that we try to understand as much as we can about life in the wild for our tortoises. I find this wild life of tortoises fascinating and interesting… BUT, in my experience, all of our speculating and postulating, amounts to a hill of beans. We know, or we should know, what works in captivity and what doesn't by now. I do. There is still more to learn and more to perfect, but we've got the general idea now. Even someone who has lived in Africa their whole life doesn't know what really happens out there.

    When I make the statement that food has nothing to do with pyramiding, I am talking to a person with a captive bred tortoise in a country and climate that is foreign to that species. What do I base such an assertion on? The Austrian study is one thing, but beyond that, I base it on what I've seen with my own two eyes. You can feed a tortoise almost nothing and nearly starve it to death on the "right" foods, and it will still pyramid in the wrong conditions. Conversely, you can feed too much of all the "wrong" foods like grocery store produce, fruit and cat food to a sulcata, and it will still grow smoothly in the "right" conditions. I've seen many examples of both. If it were food related, why doesn't the poorly fed tortoise raised on cat food but in monsoon conditions pyramid horribly? Why does the tortoise raised on an ideal quantity of dried grasses and weeds, pyramid horribly? The answer to both questions is: Because it has nothing to do with the food and everything to do with the conditions.

    You can't stop or prevent pyramiding by feeding a different quantity, quality or variety of food, if the tortoise is housed in the wrong conditions. Conversely, let the tortoise live outside in a tropical rainforest, and it won't pyramid no matter what you feed it or how much.
  16. Big Charlie

    Big Charlie Well-Known Member

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    Sometimes there are smooth tortoises raised in Arizona, without added humidity, and pyramided tortoises raised in Hawaii and Florida, in naturally humid environments. No one seems able to explain why this happens.
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  17. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    I've heard about the smooth torts grown in dry Arizona. Is it true, can anyone shed any light on this situation please.

    @Tom, what you are saying is if we provide perfect conditions, the perfect conditions overcome any flaws within our diets and
    Most of the time this is not an issue in the wild because when perfect conditions are not met, neither is the perfect diet.
    The worst result for us keepers in captivity is perfect food and not perfect conditions. With this theory the minor variations of pyramiding we see within the same clutches has to be either we don't yet have perfect conditions or the last hurdle is not related to growth/hydration ratio at all.
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  18. polDurna

    polDurna New Member

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    Hello again,
    I guess I forgot to mention the other part of what we did to replicate "Home" for our RFs. The tortiose table is located in the "solar area" of our formal dining room, an area in which I keep my inside plants, the kitchen herbs and the fresh weeds I grow for the RFs. This room is almost a greenhouse, with a open turtle pond and the tortiose table semi enclosed with a misting system that is not on the regular room timer but is engaged with the rain fall at Pongo Canyon. PH's time at summer camp she spent in an open horse stall without a regular moisture source beside her water bowl. The lack of Both natural range food, and significant water/moisture source did have an impact on her shell growth, knowing the conditions at the pet store chain(small dry glass aquarium, pellet food), I also suspect the same for Pongose'. That being said while not perfect by any means, taking into factor natural conditions of the chosen "Home" area for our RFs has had a visable effect on their shell growth.
  19. polDurna

    polDurna New Member

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    And again,
    And I was just reminded by DD(now 19) that when we found out the home range of the RF Torts, the Pongo Canyon area of an extreamly large area and varied ecosystems was chosen with the happy coincidence that I have a friend who lives in the area to call on for local conditions. While still not perfect and fairly presumptive, I still find the difference in scoute growth an interesting result of total habitat change.
  20. ZEROPILOT

    ZEROPILOT Well-Known Member TFO Supporter Platinum Supporter

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    Some of the now native habitats of the Redfoot are not actually native.
    For example, the population in the Caribbean that were released as food by early sailers..
    They seem to be very adaptive and I've never heard of any wild populations showing pyramiding.
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