1. Welcome! Are you interested in tortoises? If so, we invite you to join our community! Our community is the #1 place for tortoise keepers to talk online. Once you join you'll be able to post messages, upload pictures of your tortoise and enclosure, and discuss any tortoise topic with other tortoise keepers. Get started today!

Does diet contribute to pyramiding.

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

  1. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    39,672
    Likes Received:
    15,873
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Southern California
    Huge in what regard? Overall health, or pyramiding?
    Anyfoot likes this.
  2. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2014
    Messages:
    5,725
    Likes Received:
    4,656
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    UK Sheffield
    Don't know the answer about genetics, but my guess is yes because I think homeana's keratin grows different to the redfooted species. I'm not seeing prominent growth rings with my homeana that we see with redfoot tortoises, not at 9 months old anyway.
    If we are comparing, Leo's, sullies, and redfoots for example I think they all grow the same.
  3. Big Charlie

    Big Charlie Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2015
    Messages:
    2,128
    Likes Received:
    2,330
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    California
    This is a good point. I've seen many outdoor enclosures posted on the forum that look barren. Charlie has access to our entire yard which is kept watered. There are plenty of bushes to hide under with soil that never dries out. There is one that Charlie spends a lot of time under in the summer.

    charlie 2016 8 15 002.jpg
  4. paludarium

    paludarium Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2011
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Location:
    Taiwan
    I'd recommend this article to anyone who has an interest in diet and pyramiding:
    https://moh-it.pure.elsevier.com/en...nergy-x-ray-absorptiometry-for-use-in-evaluat

    Both group 1 and group 3 were fed naturally growing vegetation, but group 1 was housed in an artificial setting and group 3 was maintained in an outside enclosure. However, pyramidal growth was highest in group 1, all tortoises had pyramiding; pyramiding was not evident in group 3, none of the tortoises had pyramiding. Group 2 was housed in an artificial setting and fed vegetables grown for human consumption, two of the ten tortoises in this group had pyramiding.
  5. Robert Hutchens

    Robert Hutchens New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2017
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    11
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Location:
    California
    Tom is for the most case right but it's not 100% It is almost 100% when comes to sulcatas other species very. Just do your best with the knowledge you have acquired here at the forum.
  6. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2014
    Messages:
    5,725
    Likes Received:
    4,656
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    UK Sheffield
    I still have mixed thoughts on the pyramiding discussion. Logic tells me that diet can't play that big of a roll in pyramiding because across the globe torts undergo varied diets and grow smooth. Then we say growth coincides with diet in the wild.
    For example.....dry conditions= no growth And wet conditions = growth. If it was this simple then slow growth in wet conditions would solve the problem, or our super moist captive conditions would cancel out any pyramiding due to fast growth. Nothing makes sense regarding the diet. At the end of the day you could have 2 baby redfoots in the wild, one living off of foiage it's managed to hide in and the other could be lucky enough to have a supply of ants for protein as well as the foliage. Does this mean one is more susceptible to pyramiding or as the overall conditions assured smooth growth of both torts. The later makes more sense.
    This thought process then leads to 'are our conditions correct'.
    I have a group of 11 reaching 10 to 12 months old, there's a change in growth happening with them and time will tell if it's good or bad change. I mistakingly let these 11 have access to light coming in through a window which provided a safe haven to bask. Will this play a roll in growth? The heat source is from within a room so there is absolutely no possibility that I am drying them out with artificial heating. I spray the torts every day twice and soak every day, lately it's every other day. Humidity is 90%+, I don't use grocery greens for now. Diet is mixed and equal for every tort. UVB is a tube light. You would think they should grow ok. I'm not so sure.
    Next group is 22 babies up to 4 months old. Exact same conditions but without the window.

    Im still at the beginning of a major learning curve that a lot of you experts have been on for a while. I listen and respect everyone's opinion, and nothing falls on deaf ears with the slightly different opinions on raising torts. Slow growth, fast growth , soak, don't soak, blah blah blah.
    What I want to know is have any breeders kept big groups of hatchlings for a couple of yrs to really see the outcome.
    From what I'm experiencing with the pace my torts grow at I could sell on every single redfoots tortoise at 6 months old and they look perfectly smooth. It's after 6 to 7 months period that things start to change.

    Back to conditions, if any of my 22 pyramid(even just one tort) then my conditions are not correct. Im starting to think babies live large parts of life semi burried into the ground, it's hard to imitate this because in captivity they become fearless. It's rediculous how my 11 come out of hiding as soon as they see me, the fear for survival is not there.

    It's all interesting stuff.
  7. William Lee Kohler

    William Lee Kohler Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2015
    Messages:
    173
    Likes Received:
    45
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Eugene, OR
    Just a couple questionable thoughts please. Did not see anything about metabolic bone disease here or I missed it. Isn't that what causes pyramiding and not keratin growth. The keratin only covers the bone under it after all. Vitamin D, proper calcium metabolism and proper lighting all are very important parts and food DOES supply at least some of this. Much persuasion causes me to begin seeing value in more external H2O than I would have given credence not long ago. Tortoises living in very poor food spots can still grow very slowly, get all the sun, some rain and grow smooth shells over a longer period can't they?
    If MDB can be prevented shouldn't most normally kept tortoises grow smooth shells even if growing fairly rapidly? Perhaps there is an optimum(limited?)growth rate beyond which pyramiding will happen regardless of the best food/habitat conditions? And that brings us back to food or perhaps too much of it being a possible problem.
  8. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2014
    Messages:
    5,725
    Likes Received:
    4,656
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    UK Sheffield
    I understand why you are thinking what you are saying, I've had and still do have the same thoughts bouncing around in my mind. Basically what your saying is if the correct nutritional diet with all vitamins and mineral requirements are met the bone structure should grow smooth and correct and the keratin follows the bone structure. The problem is some of the decade keepers on here have been down the road of correct diet with slow or fast growth and got pyramided torts. Soon as they added hydration of some form to the exact same diet then torts grew smoother. You could look at it as the original diet was incorrect because the mineral ' WATER ' was too low.
    Where the line is drawn between MBD and just pyramiding has me confused. It seems a poor diet would produce an MBD tort in every aspect of its bone structure (limbs), this is obvious. As we improve diet all MBD is overcome except to the point of pyramiding(if we want to class that as minor MBD for now), at this point we add hydration techniques to overcome pyramiding.
    It looks to me that the carapace bone structure is thicker than any other bone structure when young, is it that all bone structure requires lubrication to grow and for example leg bones can acquire it from food sources because it's a smaller bone, where as the carapace bone structure being thicker also requires external lubrication.
    I know there's quite a lot more to nutrition than this but 2 examples of a visual to us keepers are,
    If limbs are distorted and torts dragging feet then we know calcium and D3 is out of balance. That can get deeper moving onto calcium and phosphorus then into diet type.etc etc.
    If a tort is healthy and active put pyramided we can assume all nutritional needs were met except additional hydration techniques outside of the diet.

    Just thoughts.
  9. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    2,176
    Likes Received:
    2,765
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
    Craig:

    To me it is obvious that since the pyramiding pattern follows scute seam pattern, not bone seam pattern, it is the scute causing the pyramiding. You can have smooth tortoises with MBD and pyramided tortoises with MBD. Separate issues. I do feel MBD will exacerbate the pyramiding as the bone remains much more pliable. But the scute growth causes the pyramiding.

    Fast vs slow growth has nothing to do with pyramiding. I have kept over 100 tortoises for over a year to see the effects of all different regimens I could possible come up with. Slow growth will somewhat mitigate some pyramiding as there is a much narrower seam of new growth to desiccate, so in dry conditions, the effect is less pronounced with a smaller seam exposed. Also in the experiment above we all discussed a year ago or so, the "slow growth" group also had lower nighttime temps which automatically increases the humidity substantially in their enclosure. So they had 1/2 their time in a more humid environment. Some have discounted this, but I monitor temp and humidity in all my enclosures with a graph reading every 1 minute. As an example in my Burmese night box yesterday, the humidity was 86% most all night, but in the daytime as temps crept up 15°, the humidity dropped to 67% average for over 8 hours during the day.

    All my results have shown slow growth when dry = slow pyramiding.
    Fast growth when dry = fast pyramiding
    slow growth humid = smooth
    fast growth humid = smooth.

    No matter what diet I used = no difference in the above. I have done everything with groups from no feeding at all - let them graze naturally on what grows in the enclosure. To a test of pellet only diet their first year. And everything in between including grocery greens.

    I think we will always see minor differences in "perfectly" kept individuals, no matter what we do. We will not see the dramatic pyramiding, but will get slight pyramiding in some. I believe that may have to do with genetics, just as different individual humans have very different growing fingernails - some thick and hard, other almost paper thin. I've heard enough women complain about that in reference to keeping their nails!

    But I think the majority of the variation is the individual characteristics and habits of the individual tortoise. Some will stay hidden and moist more, while other are out exploring and basking more. Some sleep in a hide, others don't.

    We can even see in the wild now that tortoises that are growing "unnaturally" during drier seasons are also pyramiding. The expansion of agriculture has given a food source to many "wild" tortoises that now grow in a dry time of year when they would not have previously been able to grow. You see that with stars, leopards, but never wild sulcatas. That is a major telling difference. Because there has been no agricultural expansion in the Sahel. There, it has only be grazing expansion and actual expansion of desertification. Still no growth in the dry season. Still no wild sulcatas are ever found pyramided.

    @Tom put it simply before I caught up, but "pyramiding is caused by GROWTH in conditions that are too dry". When a tortoise grows, whether fast or slow, if that new exposed keratin layer dries too quickly, it will prematurely harden forcing the continuing growth of that seam downward.
    Tom likes this.
  10. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2014
    Messages:
    5,725
    Likes Received:
    4,656
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    UK Sheffield
    I understand everything you say except the above paragraph.
    What are we seeing in these photos? What is keratin and what is bone?
    IMG_0359.JPG IMG_0364.JPG
  11. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    2,176
    Likes Received:
    2,765
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
    Ok. Tried to show best I could if you can follow the arrows.

    The smaller tortoise still is growing and you can see the fontanels have not filled in and are still open. This tortoise also looks like it was wild caught juvenitle that was then raised and starting to pyramid. So a great example of seeing how the scute pattern is beginning to deform the bone and has absolutely no effect on the growth seams of the bone. Only pyramiding starting where the scute seams were.

    The larger tortoise actually shows where even the "growth rings" will indent the bone and be visible with the scute gone! The fontanels are completely gone and filled in with bone on the older tortoise.

    bone & scute 1.jpg

    bone & scute 2.jpg
    Anyfoot likes this.
  12. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2014
    Messages:
    5,725
    Likes Received:
    4,656
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    UK Sheffield
    Got ya mark. Makes perfect sense now, the crazy paving lines are actually bone seems. I thought that was just the bone structure drying out, and you answered my next question, which was where are the fontanells on the baby tort?
    On the adult tort you can see 2 full hexagon and 2 half hexagon shapes on the 4th vertebral. Are these hexagon shapes where bone structure started on the spine?
  13. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    2,176
    Likes Received:
    2,765
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
    Yes, those hexagons are the individual bone plates - the vertebrals. The vertebral SCUTES will cover about 3 vertebral BONES as the bones are much smaller plates than the scutes. I also think that is why the vertebrals are much more resistant to smoothing out in a previously pyramiding tortoise, as the vertebral bones are smaller and the scute seam can tip an entire bone plate almost folding it as the scutes seam will normally coincide with the middle of a vertebral bone plate. That is also what makes a tortoise shell much stronger - the seams of scutes vs bone do not line up.
    Anyfoot likes this.
  14. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2014
    Messages:
    5,725
    Likes Received:
    4,656
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    UK Sheffield
    Yes cross over like a brick wall makes for a stronger structure.
    I keep coming across people who put coconut oil on the carapace and succeed in growing smooth torts, the unnatural method just rubs across my grain(probably me just been stubborn). Do you think that in the wild there is a natural equivalent to oils. Something as simple as mud on the carapace, if yes do you think the mud is not only helping keep the carapace humid, it's also offering mineral benefits to the carapace growth.
  15. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2014
    Messages:
    5,725
    Likes Received:
    4,656
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    UK Sheffield
    Yes cross over like a brick wall makes for a stronger structure.
    I keep coming across people who put coconut oil on the carapace and succeed in growing smooth torts, the unnatural method just rubs across my grain(probably me just been stubborn). Do you think that in the wild there is a natural equivalent to oils. Something as simple as mud on the carapace, if yes do you think the mud is not only helping keep the carapace humid, it's also offering mineral benefits to the carapace growth.
  16. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    2,176
    Likes Received:
    2,765
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
    Yes.

    I think there may well be something to that. My sulcatas and stars are always throwing mud on themselves especially lately with the extreme heat we are having this year. It would make sense to me that anything that can help keep the new keratin hydrated would help reduce pyramiding. I have been doing some coconut oil experiments myself currently.
    Turtlesfromcolo and Anyfoot like this.
  17. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2014
    Messages:
    5,725
    Likes Received:
    4,656
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    UK Sheffield
    Its next on my agenda. I'm almost certain my last clutch of 9 are fertile and ready soon, was thinking 3 with oil, 3 with mud and 3 with nothing on carapace.
  18. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    39,672
    Likes Received:
    15,873
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Southern California
    Mud only works if its stays mud, in my experience. Once the mud dries, I don't see it making any difference.
    Anyfoot likes this.
  19. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    39,672
    Likes Received:
    15,873
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Southern California
    I'm referencing your post here William, but addressing the whole group and anyone reading:

    MBD is a "catch-all" phrase the can include many bone related maladies. By far the most common and the one we usually refer to regarding our reptiles is a lack of calcium and the resultant decline and changes this causes within our animal's skeletal system. Basically, it can be defined as calcium deficiency. There are two main causes: 1. Poor diet. 2. Lack of D3, which can happen for a variety of reasons.

    Going along with our pyramiding discussion, there are some people who refer to pyramiding as a form of metabolic bone disease. I suppose this can't be denied as pyramiding does greatly affect bone density, shape and structure. Pyramided bone is porous inside and greatly "expanded", while non-pyramided bone is dense and thin. So pyramiding is a metabolic issue with the bone, but this confuses the issue for some people because while it may technically be a form of MBD, it is not the form of MBD that reptile people are usually talking about. For anyone with children, the term "colic" is similar. Everyone has heard of a colicy baby. Some of us have had one or more. But "colic" is actually six different maladies that cause similar symptoms. All of our attempts to treat our baby's "colic failed because we were treating the wrong cause. My daughter had three of the six causes simultaneously. Once we correctly treated all three, she was perfectly fine. When talking about MBD, we must agree about which specific "thing" we are talking about. Going forward, when I mention MBD, I am specifically referring to the calcium or D3 deficiency as it pertains to reptiles.

    Having established the above, MBD and pyramiding are two different and un-related maladies. I can grow (and have grown…) a heavily pyramided tortoise that has an excellent diet that is high in calcium with a high calcium to phosphorous ratio, and also has ample D3 from being outside in the sun in a warm climate all day every day, and plenty of D in the diet to make D3 from. The tortoise can have no sign of MBD and be completely healthy in every way. Conversely, I can grow a smooth tortoise indoors on a poor diet with low calcium and D, and no way for the tortoise to make D3 in its skin, and this smooth tortoise can have severe MBD. I've seen many cases of both. In the past I've referred to a couple of tortoises I saw that were eating cat kibble, grocery store greens, and whatever weeds, grass and leaves they could find in their South Florida yard. These two five year old sulcatas were huge for their age at about 50-60 pounds and they were as smooth as any wild caught tortoise I've ever seen. No sign of MBD or pyramiding. Daily cat kibble was apparently doing them no harm due to good hydration. Rapid growth caused no problem because they were in the right climate and getting enough nutrition and calcium to keep up with their rate of growth. No MBD because there was calcium in the diet, and sunshine with which to form D3.

    All of my various experiments over all the years reach the same conclusions as @Markw84 :
    Dry growth, regardless of rate = pyramiding.
    Humid and hydrated growth, regardless of rate = smooth growth.

    The above conclusions have nothing to do with MBD. The tortoise can be suffering from MBD, or thriving with excellent diet, UV and sunshine, and the above two conclusions still apply. MBD could be equated to a foot injury. Doesn't matter if a tortoise has an injured foot or a perfectly fine foot. The state of injury on the foot has nothing to do with pyramiding. Likewise, the state of calcium and D3 in a given tortoise's diet, bloodstream and bones, has nothing to do with pyramiding. Pyramiding isn't made better or worse due to the tortoise's level of calcium and D3 in the blood, bones and body.
    Anyfoot and Markw84 like this.
  20. Cowboy_Ken

    Cowboy_Ken Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2011
    Messages:
    16,551
    Likes Received:
    11,355
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Suburban-life in Salem, Oregon
    I fully agree here with Tom. Also I'd like to add that as the mud dries, it will take with it some of the moisture that was intended to be introduced into the keratin. As an example of this, when stung by a wasp, hornet or honey bee, if you apply a layer of mud to said location, as the mud dries to dirt it also "sucks" the venom out of the sting location. Trust me with this or try yourself, when I was 8-9 years old I spent lots of time catching honey bees by their wings, (this impressed the girls) I was stung regularly but I'd just put mud on it to reduce the pain. I was stung enough that now I'm highly allergic to honey bee stings but I still like the ladies.
    Anyfoot likes this.
Similar Threads: Does diet
Forum Title Date
Advanced Tortoise Topics does tortoise brain size affect behavior? Sep 2, 2015
Advanced Tortoise Topics Just what does "LEUCISTIC" mean? Jul 24, 2013
Advanced Tortoise Topics Tectonic plate movement, climate change etc. how does it effect a tortoise? Jul 23, 2013

Share This Page