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Does diet contribute to pyramiding.

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

  1. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member Today is my birthday! 5 Year Member

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    Not to knit-pick, but it is not believed reptiles and in particular tortoises store D3 in fat cells. Tortoises do not store much energy and have as much need for fat cells as mammals. They store energy reserves in the form of glycogen in the bloodstream and in cells. That is why tortoise do not get fat. There is also no room for fat in a confined tortoise shell. D3 is created in the skin, then carried by the bloodstream to the liver. There it is converted to calcediol. This is the actual substance they check for in a blood sample to check vitamin D levels. It has a life of a few weeks in the bloodstream. Some of this is then carried in the bloodstream to the kidneys and is converted to an active hormone calcetriol, and is the primary agent needed for proper calcium metabolism. This is carried in the bloodstream. It actually governs the uptake of calcium from the gut, or if the diet is very low in calcium, uptake from bones to compensate. Calcediol is also being shown to be a valuable compound for the vital function of many organs.

    On a side note - also a misconception many seem to have is tortoises that hibernate (brumate) need to store up fat for the winter. And you must watch to be sure the tortoise does not loose too much weight during hibernation meaning it is using fat stores. When in fact tortoises do not store fat as an energy reserve, as it is glycogen they store and use as energy reserves. During hibernation (brumation) a tortoise should virtually loose no weight at all except a small amount due to water loss. The small amount of energy they need during hibernation is provided by the glycogen stores. In aquatic turtles, the glycogen is also serving as a bit of an antifreeze as an added benefit!
  2. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    Thank you for the clarification. I read the info about D3 being fat soluble and stored in fat somewhere many years ago. Seemed reasonable enough, but like so many other tortoise related things, what we read isn't always accurate or true.
  3. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    What do you guys think about heat from below, could it do any damage to the torts?
    Last winter I put a small 40w tube heater under my hatchling enclosure because temps in the tort house were dropping to around 25deg c during the night, outside was around -5deg c. The heat rising from below through approx 8" depth of substrate and 2" of drainage(10" total) enticed the babies to fully dig into the substrate. I only had to do it for a couple of months. No harm came to the babies that I know of. Could this be a safe method to get babies to dig in or is there a chance of long term internal damage?
  4. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member Today is my birthday! 5 Year Member

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    I don't like heating an enclosure from below and the use of heat mats for primary heat for a tortoise to thermoregulate. I do not believe they are "programmed" to sense when they are getting too hot on the plastron. We have seen too many examples of damaged plastrons from a tortoise sitting on a heat mat. I would never want the substrate to be warmer than perhaps 30°C and used as a heat source for the tortoise to warm core body temps.

    However, a warmer substrate at night is not unnatural in "wild" conditions as the air temps cool. If you are using a small heater to simply get the substrate up to no warmer than your enclosure ambient, I would think that a viable situation. It would be a natural occurrence for ground temps to be higher than air temps overnight. A warmer ground temp may indeed trigger a higher response to dig in. I would think that a good "experiment" to see if you notice any differences.
  5. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    When I used the tube the actual tube got to about 60deg c. I forgot to mention this was under the enclosure attached to 4x4" wood so there was also a 4" air gap between the enclosure and heat tube. The actual substrate was getting to around 30c. I was conscious of temps. It was a quick fix for the situation I found myself in.
    Maybe controlling the tube on a stat with the stat probe under the drainage stones so the torts can't get to the probe would work. I could control substrate temp at 27/28c hopefully.
  6. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    Used the way you are using it, with 10" of substrate, a 4" air gap, and careful observation of temps, I see no problem with it.

    When people stick a heat mat on the bottom of a glass tank and then use an inch of substrate over it, you are asking for a burn.
    Anyfoot and Markw84 like this.
  7. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    Still a part of this paragraph that I'm not fully understanding Mark so hoping you or Tom can put it to bed for me.
    If in a young tortoise there are fontanelles on the lower part of the coastal scutes. Then how come I'm seeing some stacking on the first 9 I raised on the coastal, they look a lot more stacked than the vertebral scutes do. Bare in mind these 9 had sunlight through a window which I believe has played a major roll in how they are growing(I've basically created a basking spot for them to dry out :mad:)
    Is it possible there is a natural stacking and then as the tort grows the fontanelles fill in and it actually stretches the stacked keratin out smoother. I noticed at one yr old there is still flexing on the coastals. You have to push quite hard but there is definitely some flexing going on, I assume this is because there is no fully underlying bone yet.
    I'll try and get a good photo of the coastals tonight after work.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
  8. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    Just wanted to add how I'm imagining how they will and are growing.
    They start off growing smooth, then the scute plates(areole areas) start to thicken. Mine seem to be at 4 to 6 months old before I see any thickening. At this point they show signs of stacking which could be mistaken for pyramiding. Then as the bone growth thickens and fontanelles start to fill it stretches and pushes from the inside upward to hopefully a perfect smooth carapace shape. Once we are at the stage of thickened bones and it's all filled in they are not susceptible to pyramiding any more.
    My three 3.5 yr olds are smooth, at 2 yrs old I transferred them from a vivarium to my tort house, stopped soaking them and they are still growing on smooth. These three torts are vary from 6 to 8" SCL which suggests the closing of fontanelles is not related to how fast they grow but time.
    I've also notice the 9 that are a yr old seem to have slowed down in growing regarding their actual size but are still gaining weight, I'm thinking this is because there is some internal growing going on(bone development maybe).
    I wish I had weighed them from day 1 now to see if there is a growth pattern that is not relevant to growth speed, so for example do they all slow up on growth size at around 6 months even though one tort could be 3" and another 4" SCL.
  9. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member Today is my birthday! 5 Year Member

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    Craig,

    I don't think we really know the answer to this question directly. I think we now have a pretty good idea of the mechanism of pyramiding, but how exactly, differences with redfoot tortoises would possible be, is not in my direct experience. It does seem to me that redfoots do develop thicker scutes and shell thickness as opposed to other types of tortoises. Probably a survival mechanism similar to some of the cooters and redbellies of Forida who coexist with alligators. Perhaps the keratin of the redfoot does continue to thicken for a longer period of time as the tortoise grows its first year. That could well be what you are seeing. I would not theorize it is stretching though, as the fontanelles fill in. It would make more sense to simply believe the newer growth areas are still thickening. It may well take a redfoot scute 6 - 12 months, for example, to gain active growth thickness. So the scute continues to develop more keratin depth for a longer period of time. That would leave the newer growth areas, closer to the seam, progressively thinner/lower as they are earlier in the development of thickness. At 1 - 2 years, those areas have also had the time to develop thickness, so the scute appears to have leveled out. The fontanelles would fill in and the bone structure thicken as a process of time more so than simply size. So a faster growing tortoise would still have the open fontanelles until time allows the bone growth to fill in those areas. I know in Sulcatas that can take 4 years or so to completely fill in the bone on the sides of the shell.
    Anyfoot likes this.
  10. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Mark.

    Keep saying I'm going to and never get around to it. I'm going to take 2 of these to vets and get a couple of X-rays from each tort to see if we can learn anything. Maybe a waste of time but it's worth a shot.
  11. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    These 3 pictures are all of the same tort.
    From a clutch of 9 and all seem to be following the same growth pattern. Now 12 months old, at 5 to 6 months old they were all perfectly smooth. Between 6 and 7 months old they started showing what looks like stacking to me. The only thing that changed was I started feeding protein at 6 months old. They seem to have slowed down in growing regarding their actual size but still putting weight on.
    Notice how dry the carapace looks, just checked humidity and it's at 94%. Soaking and spraying, within the hour they look dry again. Some dig in and some don't. I mentioned the window acting as a basking area, I blocked that off a while back and added 4 torts from my other pen that is no where near the window. The 4 torts I added are now approaching 7 months old and I can see that same ugly growing pattern appearing that you can see in the third photo from above. The 4 tort where fed protein from 3 months old and were also perfectly smooth at 5 to 6 months old.
    Does that rule out the protein theory and the basking window theory? Is it just how they develop as they grow or are they stacking because they don't hide anymore like they used too, or are they growing to fast before fontanelles fill in is what I'm thinking.
    I can not for the life of me remember if the 3 smooth juveniles I raised went through this, Dawn says "they did and stop worrying about it, they are growing ok your obsessed" :D


    IMG_0859.JPG IMG_0860.JPG IMG_0861.JPG
  12. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    In this photo the tort at the top and at the bottom of the photo are 2 of the 4 I added. At 7 months old you can just see that ugly growth pattern coming in.

    Do you guys have any close ups of sullies at around 12 months old?
    IMG_0865.JPG
  13. William Lee Kohler

    William Lee Kohler Member

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    San Diego Zoo are the world experts in concert with the Galapagos folks and know better than anyone else is what I mean. Tom "suggests" that THEY are learning from us as hobbyists? What an arrogant and ignorant statement! The Galapagos Conservancy has the very natural environment where they live to learn from and raise them in so what could they possibly learn from the unwashed masses of hobbyists.
    This whole thread would be better posted under debatable subjects as that is exactly what it is.
  14. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    Maybe I should have put it in the debatable section but I was asking if diet contributes to pyramiding, not saying it does. Anyway that's a minor issue.
    I know nothing about San Diego zoo or how big a player they are in the tortoise world. I'm curious though, do they raise neonates from the egg in captivity to let's say 3 or 4 yrs old and have 100% success with smooth carapaces. If no then they are in the same boat as we hobbyists are.
    I was watching one of David Attenborough's Galapagos episodes a couple months back and obviously the Galapagos tortoise was on. One of the things that surprised me was when he referred to the first 2 yrs of a Galapagos torts life as 'the lost years'. Does that suggest that even today we don't know for certain where a baby Galapagos(any species really) goes for the first 1 or 2 yrs of its life. How up to date this documentary is I don't know.

    I put my trust into the experience of the forum members I consider to be experts rather than any Zoo on this side of the pond. I believe on your side of the pond Zoo's are a bit more knowledgeable with tortoises though.
    Just remember most of us are in it for love not money.
    Cowboy_Ken likes this.
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