Leopard tortoise pyramiding...

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jtrux

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I know this has all been beat to death but is it just me or is it waaaay more common to see pyramiding in Leopards? I know there are plenty of other tortoises out there with pyramiding, especially Sulcatas, but it seems that you NEVER see large adult Leopards with little to no pyramiding. If you do a search for Leopard tortoise on Google, virtually every image, even the ones from the wild (at least that's what it looks like) have some pyramiding. Very few i've seen are smooth.

Here's one example of a smooth one...

http://www.photostaud.com/africa/za...toise-south-luangwa-national-park-zambia.html

This was one of just a few that I saw.

I know that our husbandry techniques are improving dramatically so i'm just hoping that we will start to see some smooth Leopards in the near future, it just seems like everyone you see is pyramided to some extent.
 

wellington

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The picture that popped up is of a smooth leopard. Most captive adults you see will be pyramided. The old hot and dry way of raising them. Now that we know better, we should hopefully start seeing smooth adults, in a few years that is. The hot and hydrated method has not been around that long and most still don't know better.:( Also, the way they were raised right after hatching could have an affect on whether they will pyramid, even if we raise them the right way as soon as we get them, the earlier days could still play a roll. Diet is also thought to play a part. It has also been said that some of the pyramided wild adults, may have been captive raises and then released.
 

Neal

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Yes, it's been debated a bit and each side of the debate is really full of moot arguments. Not to discredit anyone, including myself, but the facts are that pyramided leopard tortoises are found in the wild, but no one knows if the pyramided adults were released tortoises that were raised in captivity, or if they have spent their whole lives in the wild away from human interference. I don't think it's probable that all of the pyramided wild tortoises that have been observed were captive bred, but still the argument could be made.

I for one think that leopards from certain areas pyramid naturally. The type from South Africa appear to be less prone to pyramiding than "babcocki". My viewpoint is based only on the observations of others, similar google image searches, and youtube videos. The leopard tortoise range is huge, and environmental conditions vary so much in that range. It would be very difficult to test my theory, but the current "experiment" I am involved with may show some evidence as to the role of genetics in pyramiding.
 

marcy4hope

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i had never realized this about leopards. thanks for sharing. i'm curious. if there is more pyramiding in leopards, does that affect their health in any way? are there more health issues with a leopard than with other breeds?
 

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I do not think it is a more thing as much in terms of frequency as it is a matter of severity. From my perspective, all tortoises can be made to or can experience pyramiding. However, I find it is more pronounced on animals that are naturally high domed. Stars, radiata, tents, leopards, and some others have much steeper angles to the pyramided scutes in general compared to most of what I see with other species like sulcata, the South American species, or those of Testudo. I have seen some rather extreme Aldabras. As an example, a pyramided ibera, on average from what I observe, looks less extreme than a pyramided babcocki generally does. It is not so much that it happens more often, but that when it does it happens in a bigger way. I think it is a matter of physical geometry combined with inflexible keratin placing a tension demand on the underlying bone, thereby invoking Wolff's Law to result in what one observes as pyramiding.
 

Greg T

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I have three adult leopards which all grew up in Houston. One has some pyramiding when I got her as an adult, one hasn't developed any more pyramiding than she had when I got her as a baby, and one has grown nice and smooth. All are from different adults and are treated the same, so an observation there is some level of pyramiding my be in their genes.
Here is my adult male enjoying a strawberry treat.
IMAG0135_zps2f2a863c.jpg
 

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Sadly Greg, your observations are correct. You almost never see a smooth one, unless you are walking around in their native range. This is because for the last 20 or 30 years we have all been raising them incorrectly based on false assumptions.

I share your hope for improvement in the future, and by the looks of things on this forum, including your tortoises, things are looking much better.
 

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marcy4hope said:
i had never realized this about leopards. thanks for sharing. i'm curious. if there is more pyramiding in leopards, does that affect their health in any way? are there more health issues with a leopard than with other breeds?

No, pyramiding by itself does not affect their health, and there are not more health issues with leopards than with other types.
 

jtrux

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Greg, he looks great, I hope to achieve similar results. Ive been putting a ton of effort to ensure mine grows smoothly, hell if it does develop some pyramiding im pretty sure id feel a little upset about seeing as how im putting in soo much time into his husbandry.
 

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jtrux said:
Greg, he looks great, I hope to achieve similar results. Ive been putting a ton of effort to ensure mine grows smoothly, hell if it does develop some pyramiding im pretty sure id feel a little upset about seeing as how im putting in soo much time into his husbandry.

That's the problem I have with many animal forums. It seems like no matter what you do, you'll be left feeling inadequate in some way. On this one in particular, it seems almost like a contest to see who can grow the smoothest tortoises even if it means forcing them in a sweat box. And then when someone gets some pyramiding they feel bad, even though the animal may be completely healthy otherwise.

I know because I felt a little bad myself when my leopard seemed to be showing signs of pyramiding. Then I began to rearrange the enclosure, look for ways to keep it in the humid hide, I even bought a humidifier that will be here in a few days. I'm grateful for this forum but it has also put things on my mind that wouldn't have concerned me in the least if I never came here.
 

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Another thing that saddens me here is when people post pics of their leopards and pretty much apologize for a little pyramiding. As if they've done something horribly wrong and it's a lesser animal in their eyes. I've asked about mine but I don't want to feel guilty because I didn't shut it in a container with 95% jungle humidity in order to stop whatever may be happening. If that would stop it.

I've seen numerous posts where people have seen pyramided leopards in the wild. So who's to say it's not natural for some? Who's to say that forcing them to be completely smooth is right? Does it even matter?

I dunno. I'm just concerned that this trend on the board will discourage people. And I'm one of them.
 

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Tortus said:
Another thing that saddens me here is when people post pics of their leopards and pretty much apologize for a little pyramiding. As if they've done something horribly wrong and it's a lesser animal in their eyes. I've asked about mine but I don't want to feel guilty because I didn't shut it in a container with 95% jungle humidity in order to stop whatever may be happening. If that would stop it.

I've seen numerous posts where people have seen pyramided leopards in the wild. So who's to say it's not natural for some? Who's to say that forcing them to be completely smooth is right? Does it even matter?

I dunno. I'm just concerned that this trend on the board will discourage people. And I'm one of them.

Would you prefer we just stick to the books and status quo of horribly disfigured and misshapen animals of the past 20 or 30 years?

I'm sorry you perceive some sort of "pressure". That is not intended. I see no reason why someone should not strive for excellence, try to learn more, and try to improve ones husbandry. When people are successful, I think they should be praised. When they are not, I think they should be encouraged. No one has perfect animals here. Mine sure aren't, but that does not mean that I won't continue to try and keep learning, and using what I learn to improve my technique.

I think its great that you are expressing your opinion. I think its okay if you have a different opinion. I also find your exaggerations a bit inflammatory. Let me address your questions:

1. No one can say what is natural or not any more. As one member from Africa put it, they really is no "wild" anymore. There are roads, crops, and general human influence everywhere now. I cannot conclusively say that some pyramiding does not happen in the "wild", although I don't think it does. Likewise, Neal cannot say with 100% certainty that it does.

2. I do not consider providing optimal conditions for smooth natural growth to be "force". If you do that is fine, I just don't agree. What I am doing is trying to simulate the conditions and microclimates that they would actually be experiencing in the wild. The problem is that NO ONE, including me or anyone on this forum REALLY knows what those condition are. Above ground weather reports from nearby cities is of limited value too. What we are left with is what DOES and what DOES NOT work in captivity. My experiments and experiences have shown me BOTH. I simply try to pass along what I've learned. If you find this info somehow distasteful, feel free to disregard it and raise your tortoises however you like. Sad thing is that if you tell us how you intend to raise them, several of us here on this forum can accurately predict what you will end up with, but do it however you wish.

3. "Does it even matter?" Yes, to me, it does. My failure to grow natural looking tortoises in the past matters to me a lot. It is a clear and obvious indicator that I and the ones I was taking advice from were ignorant. I abhor ignorance. My own or anyones else's. When my friend from Senegal tells me that pyramiding does not exist in his country, it tells me that WE are/were doing something WRONG. When I walk through nature preserves in South Africa and see nothing but smooth high domed gorgeous leopard tortoises, and compare them to what I have been able to raise at home up to that point, yes. Yes it matters. I still love my animals of the past. I care for them daily and give them the best that I know how. It is not their fault that I was ignorant. But their appearance does motivate me to try harder to learn more and do better.

I am sorry that you feel discouraged. Most people seem to be very encouraged and uplifted by the fact that we are now doing a better job than before. I am PMd regularly by total strangers thanking me for posting what I post. They tell me they appreciate it and are very happy to share in the learning. They also tell me how well it works both privately and publicly. I don't look down on anyone with a pyramided animal. I have a whole bunch of them myself. All my fault. Nobody was born knowing any of this stuff. It all has to be learned... or not.
 

cesktw0

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I find it interesting that leopard tortoises come from the grasslands in Africa which is hot and dry but in captivity they need high humidity, weekly soaks and misting. I have never seen a smooth adult leopard, that pic was wonderful, thanks for sharing
 

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cesktw0 said:
I find it interesting that leopard tortoises come from the grasslands in Africa which is hot and dry but in captivity they need high humidity, weekly soaks and misting. I have never seen a smooth adult leopard, that pic was wonderful, thanks for sharing

Smooth adults are out there. I have seen only a few with perfectly smooth shells. The rest have some degree of pyramiding. And I do think it occurs in nature, but at the present, I think it occurs in nature as a result of the environment the tortoises grew up in and not so much they pyramid irregardless of environmental conditions, know what I mean? I hope my current experiment shows some amount of evidence to support this theory one way or the other.

While on the surface things are hot and dry, it is assumed that babies live most of their lives in humid burrows or in small micro climates in grass clusters or other small areas. These micro climates are what we are trying to mimic with the frequent soaks and misting.

Tortus, Unless the pyramiding is very severe, I do share the same feelings as you when people apologize for the pyramiding tortoises or list a few excuses for pyramiding. I do think it is important to make all attempts to raise a tortoise a smooth as possible, but I don't like to see people beating themselves up. What should be the utmost important concern for all tortoise owners is the health of their tortoises, which really can't be determined so much by outward appearance if pyramiding is minimal.
 

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cesktw0 said:
I find it interesting that leopard tortoises come from the grasslands in Africa which is hot and dry but in captivity they need high humidity, weekly soaks and misting. I have never seen a smooth adult leopard, that pic was wonderful, thanks for sharing

This is what is so interesting to me. All the books say what you just said, but its wrong. The range of the leopard tortoise is nearly the entire African continent top to bottom. They don't occur in the Sahara. They don't occur in Sub-Sahara where the sulcatas come from, but they are spread out over much of the remainder of the whole continent. I have seen them in the wild myself at the very Southern tip of Africa. I moved around inside around a 60 km radius for around four months. The climate, micro climates, habitats, weather and huge variety of environments where I found leopards was astounding. I would not call a single one of the habitats that I witnessed "grassland" and I was significantly below the tropics too. Down on the Cape the weather could best be compared to San Francisco here in CA. Cold, muggy, foggy and damp. Sure occasionally sunny days too, but shocking how cold, damp and windy it was most of the time. Yet when I laid down in the scrub to be at leopard tortoise level. It was significantly less windy and much warmer "feeling". If I had looked at a weather report for that day, it would have said cold and windy on the Cape. Yet when I was at tortoise level, in a "micro-climate" if you will, it was quite a bit different. When you consider the variety of microclimates available to a 20 gram hatchling over the span of most of an entire continent, it should be obvious that no one can KNOW what sort of conditions a baby leopard would inhabit in the wild.

Do some leopards in some parts of Africa inhabit grassland areas? Yes. I'm sure of it. Have you ever heard mention from any person or any book of a hatchling leopard walking around out in the open dry air in a grassland region? I haven't. Adults? Sure. Babies? Not so much.

And THAT is the point I made above. The above ground weather reports from a given area have very limited value, if one is trying to simulate "natural" conditions for a captive leopard. Very little is known about what wild leopard hatchlings do, what they eat, or where they spend their time. However, we VOLUMES about what will happen if you raise them hot and dry in captivity. Since we really don't know what wild ones encounter, and we really do know what makes them grow misshapen, or not, in captivity, I choose to follow what I know works, rather than what a book author chooses to repeat about general, above ground, climactic conditions over an immense area.

And Neal. Great points. Very well worded as usual.
 

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Tom said:
Tortus said:
Another thing that saddens me here is when people post pics of their leopards and pretty much apologize for a little pyramiding. As if they've done something horribly wrong and it's a lesser animal in their eyes. I've asked about mine but I don't want to feel guilty because I didn't shut it in a container with 95% jungle humidity in order to stop whatever may be happening. If that would stop it.

I've seen numerous posts where people have seen pyramided leopards in the wild. So who's to say it's not natural for some? Who's to say that forcing them to be completely smooth is right? Does it even matter?

I dunno. I'm just concerned that this trend on the board will discourage people. And I'm one of them.

Would you prefer we just stick to the books and status quo of horribly disfigured and misshapen animals of the past 20 or 30 years?

I'm sorry you perceive some sort of "pressure". That is not intended. I see no reason why someone should not strive for excellence, try to learn more, and try to improve ones husbandry. When people are successful, I think they should be praised. When they are not, I think they should be encouraged. No one has perfect animals here. Mine sure aren't, but that does not mean that I won't continue to try and keep learning, and using what I learn to improve my technique.

I think its great that you are expressing your opinion. I think its okay if you have a different opinion. I also find your exaggerations a bit inflammatory. Let me address your questions:

1. No one can say what is natural or not any more. As one member from Africa put it, they really is no "wild" anymore. There are roads, crops, and general human influence everywhere now. I cannot conclusively say that some pyramiding does not happen in the "wild", although I don't think it does. Likewise, Neal cannot say with 100% certainty that it does.

2. I do not consider providing optimal conditions for smooth natural growth to be "force". If you do that is fine, I just don't agree. What I am doing is trying to simulate the conditions and microclimates that they would actually be experiencing in the wild. The problem is that NO ONE, including me or anyone on this forum REALLY knows what those condition are. Above ground weather reports from nearby cities is of limited value too. What we are left with is what DOES and what DOES NOT work in captivity. My experiments and experiences have shown me BOTH. I simply try to pass along what I've learned. If you find this info somehow distasteful, feel free to disregard it and raise your tortoises however you like. Sad thing is that if you tell us how you intend to raise them, several of us here on this forum can accurately predict what you will end up with, but do it however you wish.

3. "Does it even matter?" Yes, to me, it does. My failure to grow natural looking tortoises in the past matters to me a lot. It is a clear and obvious indicator that I and the ones I was taking advice from were ignorant. I abhor ignorance. My own or anyones else's. When my friend from Senegal tells me that pyramiding does not exist in his country, it tells me that WE are/were doing something WRONG. When I walk through nature preserves in South Africa and see nothing but smooth high domed gorgeous leopard tortoises, and compare them to what I have been able to raise at home up to that point, yes. Yes it matters. I still love my animals of the past. I care for them daily and give them the best that I know how. It is not their fault that I was ignorant. But their appearance does motivate me to try harder to learn more and do better.

I am sorry that you feel discouraged. Most people seem to be very encouraged and uplifted by the fact that we are now doing a better job than before. I am PMd regularly by total strangers thanking me for posting what I post. They tell me they appreciate it and are very happy to share in the learning. They also tell me how well it works both privately and publicly. I don't look down on anyone with a pyramided animal. I have a whole bunch of them myself. All my fault. Nobody was born knowing any of this stuff. It all has to be learned... or not.

The thing that troubles me is when people say a pyramided animal is their "fault". From what I've seen and heard not all leopards are smooth in the wild, so why is that a fault? If their scutes aren't perfectly smooth?

But I do see what you're saying. Strive for the best, sure. But when I see people feeling bad about their pyramided torts it's kind of depressing. I see a beautiful healthy tortoise, but they seem to see something less because it's not perfectly smooth.

I dunno. I'm still new to this and just expressing a current opinion.


Neal said:
Tortus, Unless the pyramiding is very severe, I do share the same feelings as you when people apologize for the pyramiding tortoises or list a few excuses for pyramiding. I do think it is important to make all attempts to raise a tortoise a smooth as possible, but I don't like to see people beating themselves up. What should be the utmost important concern for all tortoise owners is the health of their tortoises, which really can't be determined so much by outward appearance if pyramiding is minimal.

The health is my main concern also.

I didn't mean to be inflammatory or anything with my recent posts, but I felt myself compelled to do anything necessary to stop what seems to be the beginning of pyramiding in my tort (I'm starting to question that now...time will tell). A little I don't mind. I also felt the discouragement of others when there may really be no problem to be discouraged over.

Even if baby leopards spend a lot of time underground in the wild, they also need to spend a lot of time on the surface feeding and the humidity up there will most definitely not be 90%. Mine for one doesn't like any sort of "burrow". It likes to be wedged under something when it sleeps, but doesn't like to go in a hole.

I do apologize if I sounded offensive in anything I said and I appreciate the effort some have taken to see what causes pyramiding. I was just taken aback by a few comments regarding pyramided animals that seem to surface regularly.
 

Neal

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Tortus said:
Mine for one doesn't like any sort of "burrow". It likes to be wedged under something when it sleeps, but doesn't like to go in a hole.

I've noticed similar behavior in just about all of the hatchlings I have raised of all types. While they do hide often, they spend a lot of time walking around in the open and grazing every day and at various points throughout the day. This is what perplexes me about the theory that wild hatchlings spend most of their times in micro climates.

That being said, I am comparing captive born tortoise behavior to wild tortoise behavior (even though the wild behavior is an assumption), so I suppose it could be an apples to oranges comparison in a lot of ways.
 

jtrux

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Here's mine...

You can see a waviness or a slight raise to the scutes esecially the upper most ones. I got him very young and the scutes were like that and i'm really not sure whether it was the beginning of pyramiding or just the way the scutes were from birth. Either way, you can see the smooth growth between the scutes now and I have a VERY humid enclosure for him.

It's pretty tedious if I do say so myself, two soaks a day, sunlight every day, 70%-100% humidity in enclosure depending on temp since I put humdifier in. It takes a little time but it appears that the results are worth it. I feel that over time the waviness of the scutes will hardly be noticeable. I'm also toying with the idea of converting a garden shed from Home Depot or Lowes into a giant closed chamber to allow high humidity for him up to 12" in length or so to ensure a smooth tortoise all the way to adulthood but we'll see how things progress.

I'm convinced that the high humidity is necessary to raise a smooth tort. I'll continue to provide that sort of environment as long as I feel it's needed.
 

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Tom

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It IS the fault of the person raising the tortoise if it pyramids because that is who provided the conditions for growth, either smooth or not. We now know what makes them pyramid in captivity and what prevents it, so it should pretty obvious whose fault it is. It is certainly my fault that my current adults are pyramided. I am the one who raised them and gave them the conditions which caused theirs shells to deform. On the other hand, I am also responsible for my current younger ones that are all growing very smoothly now that I have figured out how it all works, and I'm providing them with the correct environmental parameters.

We have already gone over how debatable it is whether wild ones pyramid or not. Don't know why you would choose to assume they do. None of the wild leopards I saw had any pyramiding whatsoever, and only a few of the captive raised ones over there did. Whenever "wild" pyramided tortoises are encountered, there is usually some human influence involved. A few examples: The "bean field" stars over in India that grow up gorging themselves on legumes every day. The wild radiated tortoises in Madagascar that eat the introduced opuntia cactus and cactus fruits that the farmers use to enclircle their fields and keep the wildlife out. In Africa there really isnt much land that isn't somehow tainted by humans. One of our own African members has expressed the fact that there really isn't much "wild" land left. It is common for leopards over there to be raised up in captivity and then released into the wild. There is know way to know how that pyramided leopard walking around out in the bushes got that way. Know way to know where he came from or what he was fed or how he got there. There were a lot of babcocki looking captives down in South Africa where the wild ones that I saw were all pardalis pardalis. How did those babcocki get down there?

I think I can speak for most of the members here when I say that the intent is not to bash anyone, or make them feel bad, but to educate them. To let them know that, "Hey, keeping your tortoise in THAT manner is going to result in unnatural pyramided growth." Speaking for myself now, I can say that I'm sometimes a bit pushy or brash with the info because time is of the essence. The longer they live in the wrong conditions, the worse the damage will be, and the harder it will be to stop. Some people seem to need a bit more of a push to help them "get it". We are all here to learn and help others. I think we all have a common goal of raising healthy tortoises. The bone under those heavily pyramided tortoise shells that you see is NOT healthy bone. It is porous and spongelike instead of dense and solid. I don't think a little bit of pyramiding necessarily makes a tortoise "unhealthy", but I am prepared to say that it is not natural, it is not how it should be, and it is pretty easy to prevent it.
 
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