Pictures and thoughts on growing smooth tortoises today

Markw84

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Another post and question on the forum this morning got me going on pyramiding again. And then at bath time today as I soaked some tortoises in the sun, I began thinking about how much we have learned about "natural" growth of tortoises and how to achieve it. In fact it was on this forum back in 2010 that I came across a thread by a guy named @Tom on ending pyramiding. That was the real turning point for me that got me pointed in the right direction after decades of frustration. Since then I have become quite close friends with Tom and we collaborate all the time talking tortoises. I bet we talk at least every week now!

11 years ago, and we still see all the same old outdated information out there and arguments about closed chambers and "dry" species!

So as I soaked my tortoises today, I took some pictures to show how what we've learned has changed the way we now grow tortoises and finally see tortoise that look the way they are supposed to!

A 6.5 month old Burmese Star I held back from my summer clutches of last year. I always like to hold back a few to see how they turn out and to compare to ones I sold if there are questions.

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A couple of pancake tortoises just over 1 year old:

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Here's another pancake with a side view to really see how the vertebrals are growing. 14 mos old. 4.6". 180g. Gives a new meaning to the old phrase "flat as a pancake"!!

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Here's Darwin. a 2019 hatch. Brenda giving some cactus this morning. 23 mos old. 13.8". 6750g. You can see the perfect flat growth from the first 16 months or so in the closed chamber. But now outdoors full time for over 6 months there is slight pyramiding starting. Gotta figure out how to get the humidity up in the night house!!

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Here's a 2020 hatchling that will be 1 year old in 3 weeks. 8.75" 1760g.

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Here's some 2021 hatchlings in their bath today. 4 days old. Already growing and eating. You can see, if you zoom in, the new growth where the scute seams are separating and new keratin is filing in. The new keratin has actually swelled up into a ridge as it is supposed to. Not flat or sunken.

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Here they are back in the brooder box as their yolk sac has not yet completely healed. At this stage they need constant 100% humidity, incubation temperatures, and lots of food. Everything in there I grow here for the tortoises. I leave some leaves big for hiding cover for the babies.

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Warren

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All your Tortoises look very nice, really like the looks of your pancake tortoise. What would a pancake newborn cost, just thinking if I was to get another tortoise, a Pancake would be a change from my Sulcata. Good job
 

Markw84

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All your Tortoises look very nice, really like the looks of your pancake tortoise. What would a pancake newborn cost, just thinking if I was to get another tortoise, a Pancake would be a change from my Sulcata. Good job
I think you’d normally see baby pancake in the $400 range when you do see them available.
 

Warren

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I think you’d normally see baby pancake in the $400 range when you do see them available.
Was just looking on line, Tortoise Town has them advertised starting around $699.00. Not buying anytime soon and not from TT. Just seen your pictures and thought that they were interesting. They don't get very big, compared to my Sucata. Have a nice Tortoise table that my Sammy grew out of, would be perfect for a smaller Tortoise. I was just thinking, my wife says 1 Tortoise, 2 Dogs, 2 cats and 1 bird is plenty of pets to take care of.
 

TeamZissou

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Great thread. I guess I've never seen photos of hatchling Galapagos. It's interesting that they have a similar color pattern as hatchling Chacos, at least on the vertebral scutes. I guess it makes sense that they are in the same genus.
 

Markw84

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They are all Mark's pictures. I have seen them prior to this thread is all. Just making a little joke with Mark.
Yes. I had text Tom most of these pictures as I was soaking the babies yesterday. But that got me thinking about why Tom and I are doing all this - to redefine how to raise all tortoises for everyone. So I posted them here for everyone to see.

Beautiful tortoises.
Boy, with you two together, look out tortoise world, all the problems will be solved in no time. Now you have to figure out how to get the old outdated crap gone.
Keep up the great works.
We are definitely working on that...
 

wellington

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Yes. I had text Tom most of these pictures as I was soaking the babies yesterday. But that got me thinking about why Tom and I are doing all this - to redefine how to raise all tortoises for everyone. So I posted them here for everyone to see.


We are definitely working on that...
And I/we do greatly appreciate what you and Tom do and the sharing of all you do.
 

ManAlive85

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I have a question about this. I keep a couple of Indian Stars which are both kept pretty much in accordance with the information found on this forum, in closed chambers with high humidity etc. They’ve got signs of early pyramiding from being started dryer by the breeder but have since grown nice and smooth with me. They’re both young but gaining weight well and seem to be in generally top condition.


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I often look at pictures of Stars in the wild and they almost all exhibit some degree of pyramiding. Granted, not as severe as a typical dry kept, captive specimen but very often a significantly greater degree of pyramiding to that seen in my Stars. This makes me wonder if, for some species, the ambition to raise a tortoise with a perfectly smooth shell is leading to the creation of artificially smooth tortoises rather than the result of mimicking ideal natural conditions in captivity.

Assuming that a healthy, thriving, wild specimen of any particular species should be considered the be benchmark for keepers of that species to strive for, could it be argued that for some species such as Stars, a degree of pyramiding is desirable or even beneficial? Perhaps these species might benefit from periods of dryer as well as more humid conditions to more closely mimic seasonal changes in their natural habitat?

I don’t intend to make any changes to my setup based on this but It’s something I’ve thought about for a while and I’m interested to hear what more experienced and well read keepers think about it.
 
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Markw84

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I have a question about this. I keep a couple of Indian Stars which are both kept pretty much in accordance with the information found on this forum, in closed chambers with high humidity etc. They’ve got signs of early pyramiding from being started dryer by the breeder but have since grown nice and smooth with me. They’re both young but gaining weight well and seem to be in generally top condition.


View attachment 323055

View attachment 323056

View attachment 323057

I often look at pictures of Stars in the wild and they almost all exhibit some degree of pyramiding. Granted, not as severe as a typical dry kept, captive specimen but very often a significantly greater degree of pyramiding to that seen in my Stars. This makes me wonder if, for some species, the ambition to raise a tortoise with a perfectly smooth shell is leading to the creation of artificially smooth tortoises rather than the result of mimicking ideal natural conditions in captivity.

Assuming that a healthy, thriving, wild specimen of any particular species should be considered the be benchmark for keepers of that species to strive for, could it be argued that for some species such as Stars, a degree of pyramiding is desirable or even beneficial? Perhaps these species might benefit from periods of dryer as well as more humid conditions to more closely mimic seasonal changes in their natural habitat?

I don’t intend to make any changes to my setup based on this but It’s something I’ve thought about for a while and I’m interested to hear what more experienced and well read keepers think about it.
Great post and great question I hear often. Let me give my take on this...

There are 2 main points I think need to be considered about "wild growth pyramiding".

1 - Man has altered the habitat of most every tortoise we see depicted as wild and pyramided. Reservoirs and agriculture make food available for "wild" species even in the dry season when historically, there would have been no food and the tortoise would have been aestivating. I will bet we would be hard pressed to find a wild tortoise that truly is living in a habitat that has not been altered. Many "wild" specimens we see also have been kept in villages and enclosures where they don't have the microclimates they would hide in in the wild. In their natural range, but hardly in their natural habitat. Just look at the tortoise raised in the conservation centers in their home ranges. The centers devoted to preserving the species. All are pyramided. The Burmese stars of Myanmar, the Galapagos tortoise of the Galapagos preservation center - all in their home range but all raised very pyramided. Tortoises are master of hiding and finding microclimates. Most keepers do not provide those conditions at all.

2. Tortoises are millions of years old. The earth has gone through countless wet/dry cycles in that time. Just 30,000 years ago, for example, the Sahel region of the sulcata was actually a humid forest. We have but a brief and very dry snapshot of the true climate all tortoises really evolved in. We are in one of the driest cycles right now. Tortoises are survivors and know how to find those microclimates and wait for not only the return of the monsoon each year, but as a species the turn of the climate cycle. So, are the conditions we see now optimal conditions for a tortoise? Or are tortoises simply survivors that are contending with "conditions that are too dry" that even mother nature has thrown at them the past few thousand years?
 

Tom

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I have a question about this. I keep a couple of Indian Stars which are both kept pretty much in accordance with the information found on this forum, in closed chambers with high humidity etc. They’ve got signs of early pyramiding from being started dryer by the breeder but have since grown nice and smooth with me. They’re both young but gaining weight well and seem to be in generally top condition.


View attachment 323055

View attachment 323056

View attachment 323057

I often look at pictures of Stars in the wild and they almost all exhibit some degree of pyramiding. Granted, not as severe as a typical dry kept, captive specimen but very often a significantly greater degree of pyramiding to that seen in my Stars. This makes me wonder if, for some species, the ambition to raise a tortoise with a perfectly smooth shell is leading to the creation of artificially smooth tortoises rather than the result of mimicking ideal natural conditions in captivity.

Assuming that a healthy, thriving, wild specimen of any particular species should be considered the be benchmark for keepers of that species to strive for, could it be argued that for some species such as Stars, a degree of pyramiding is desirable or even beneficial? Perhaps these species might benefit from periods of dryer as well as more humid conditions to more closely mimic seasonal changes in their natural habitat?

I don’t intend to make any changes to my setup based on this but It’s something I’ve thought about for a while and I’m interested to hear what more experienced and well read keepers think about it.
I would like to add to what Mark said...

As told to me by an American that lived in India for several years: The "dry" season over there in areas where Indian stars come from is 60-80% humidity. They call this the "dry" season because when the "wet" monsoon season comes, ambient humidity is 80-100% all the time.

"Dry" and "humid" are such relative terms. "Dry" in the American South West, is NOT the same as "dry" in India.
 

Tom

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To add a little more: I did a Lady Gaga music video last September here near where I live. The daily highs were 105-110F (41-43C) during those days. On one 108 degree day, after five crew members had either heat exhaustion or heat stroke, and two of them left in an ambulance, our director, who was from India, exclaimed: "I don't know what the problem is. This would be a nice cool summer day in India...", as he walked around in direct sun with a pep in his step like no one else on set. Now I'm comfortable with the heat. It doesn't bother me and I function just fine in it, but I've never seen a man move around like that director in heat like that. And he did it all day long every day for several days in a row.

My point is: Its very hot in India. And very humid too.
 

Sue Ann

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All your Tortoises look very nice, really like the looks of your pancake tortoise. What would a pancake newborn cost, just thinking if I was to get another tortoise, a Pancake would be a change from my Sulcata. Good job
I’m fascinated by the pancake tortoises! Do you breed them?
 

Sue Ann

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To add a little more: I did a Lady Gaga music video last September here near where I live. The daily highs were 105-110F (41-43C) during those days. On one 108 degree day, after five crew members had either heat exhaustion or heat stroke, and two of them left in an ambulance, our director, who was from India, exclaimed: "I don't know what the problem is. This would be a nice cool summer day in India...", as he walked around in direct sun with a pep in his step like no one else on set. Now I'm comfortable with the heat. It doesn't bother me and I function just fine in it, but I've never seen a man move around like that director in heat like that. And he did it all day long every day for several days in a row.

My point is: Its very hot in India. And very humid too.
Lady Gaga!? You lead a very interesting life 😃
 

Chip0282

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My question is seeing Mark Post point us towards needs of correct humidity to prevent piramiding. How about diet? With closed chamber , correct humidity, can everyday feed Mazuri can lead to pyramiding ?

I also saw some aldabra had very bold growthline, making appearance like not smooth anymore, is this effect from diet or humidity?

Thanks
 

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Tom

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My question is seeing Mark Post point us towards needs of correct humidity to prevent piramiding. How about diet? With closed chamber , correct humidity, can everyday feed Mazuri can lead to pyramiding ?

I also saw some aldabra had very bold growthline, making appearance like not smooth anymore, is this effect from diet or humidity?

Thanks
I don't know that anyone has tested such and extreme. Why would you? I've seen super smooth sulcatas that ate cat kibble daily, along with other foods, but they were grown in South Florida in the humidity.

In time the new growth on the Aldabra will darken up and look like the rest of the carapace.
 
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