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Pyramiding – Solving the Mystery

Salspi

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Feb 1, 2017
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265
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Chicago
Excellent Mark, and thank you for taking the time to type this up.

There are still unsolved mysteries to me. Knowing how keratin and bone grows also helps us understand how they act in the wild in the younger years.
Unanswered questions for me are what is the diet of neonates in the wild. If they are hidden and dug in for long periods then where is the vitamins coming from for healthy growth. Vitamin D is the big one. Do all species eat bugs as a source of D3 in the early stages. I was under the impression at dawn and dusk uv levels are low, You wouldn't think neonates would venture out at the height of the day when sun hot hot hot because this would dry out keratin and force pyramiding.
What about actual dirt, do they eat that because it's rich in vitamins and minerals when dug in?
If they can survive on eating soil, my mind will be blown.
 

Anyfoot

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If they can survive on eating soil, my mind will be blown.
i didn't mean only eat mud/dirt. I was thinking more like when they are eating weeds/grasses or bugs that dirt particles would be dragged in.
When I pick weeds in a morning there is always tiny slugs and bugs amongst the grass and weeds. When we've had a heavy rainfall the dirt actually bounces up onto the lower parts of the foliage. It wouldn't be beyond possibility that all neonates (even herbivores) are inadvertently eating tiny bugs and dirt particles that are amongst the foliage in micro climates.

I'm at the stage where nothing surprises me any more in the tortoise world, Nothing. :D
 

Anyfoot

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Why are some species more susceptible to pyramiding than others?
 

ColaCarbonaria

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Nov 13, 2017
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245
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Pensacola, Florida
Excellent Mark, and thank you for taking the time to type this up.

There are still unsolved mysteries to me. Knowing how keratin and bone grows also helps us understand how they act in the wild in the younger years.
Unanswered questions for me are what is the diet of neonates in the wild. If they are hidden and dug in for long periods then where is the vitamins coming from for healthy growth. Vitamin D is the big one. Do all species eat bugs as a source of D3 in the early stages. I was under the impression at dawn and dusk uv levels are low, You wouldn't think neonates would venture out at the height of the day when sun hot hot hot because this would dry out keratin and force pyramiding.
What about actual dirt, do they eat that because it's rich in vitamins and minerals when dug in?
I was reading an old article on incubating RF eggs this weekend written by our own Carl May and he was talking about perlite & vermiculite and stated he witnessed hatchlings still in the egg reaching their heads down and eating the perlite and saw them pass this in some of their first BM. You can argue that perlite is white, unnatural and therefore be an attraction for a cb tortoise only, but a baby tortoise doesn’t know dirt is suppose to be brown, right? Nature not nurture. It leads me to believe they probably do ingest soil as a source of nutrients, at least in forest dwelling species especially, I would think the highly composted jungle floor would hold critical vitamins and minerals. This is why we use compost in our gardens. I know it’s only one observation but food for thought nonetheless.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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I was reading an old article on incubating RF eggs this weekend written by our own Carl May and he was talking about perlite & vermiculite and stated he witnessed hatchlings still in the egg reaching their heads down and eating the perlite and saw them pass this in some of their first BM. You can argue that perlite is white, unnatural and therefore be an attraction for a cb tortoise only, but a baby tortoise doesn’t know dirt is suppose to be brown, right? Nature not nurture. It leads me to believe they probably do ingest soil as a source of nutrients, at least in forest dwelling species especially, I would think the highly composted jungle floor would hold critical vitamins and minerals. This is why we use compost in our gardens. I know it’s only one observation but food for thought nonetheless.
All of my hatchlings do this. I incubate on vermiculite and I remove the babies from the incubator as soon as they leave the egg under their own power. This is usually a day or two from pipping. I always see a few little vermiculite flecks in their first poops.

A few years ago I bought some sulcata hatchlings from a breeder who incubated on perlite. A third of the babies failed, another third was mediocre, and the final third was fine. Necropsy revealed the GI tract of the failed ones was lined with gray sandy sludge. They had never been on sand or anything sand like. It was broken down perlite.

This is the reason why I tell everyone not to use perlite. I still hear breeders saying hatchlings don't eat while they have a yolk sac. I KNOW this is false. ALL of my hatchlings nibble on available food while they still have a yolk sac. I also don't understand breeders who leave the babies in the incubator for several days or a week while they are absorbing the yolk sac. Those babies are filling their GI tract with incubation media.
 

Markw84

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Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
Excellent Mark, and thank you for taking the time to type this up.

There are still unsolved mysteries to me. Knowing how keratin and bone grows also helps us understand how they act in the wild in the younger years.
Unanswered questions for me are what is the diet of neonates in the wild. If they are hidden and dug in for long periods then where is the vitamins coming from for healthy growth. Vitamin D is the big one. Do all species eat bugs as a source of D3 in the early stages. I was under the impression at dawn and dusk uv levels are low, You wouldn't think neonates would venture out at the height of the day when sun hot hot hot because this would dry out keratin and force pyramiding.
What about actual dirt, do they eat that because it's rich in vitamins and minerals when dug in?
@Tom is certainly correct - SOOOO much we just don't know yet. But with pyramiding, perhaps this is getting us to start asking the right questions.

With a baby hiding in leaf litter/composting vegetation, there would actually be food right there it is hiding in. And with that, very conceivably, bugs that could be providing some Vit D. But, just as one of the pictures you recently posted in your thread on white lines, all a baby has to do is stick out its head and a bit of the forelegs, to take advantage of some sunshine, and it could easily get enough D3 in a few minutes a week of this behavior. They certainly never have to "bask" as we think of it. Many of my aquatic turtles are very good at cryptic basking, where they are taking advantage of the sunlight, but still remaining quite hidden with little of them fully exposed.

Injesting substrate with the plants they eat, is indeed a source of minerals for many herbivores. That is true whether hidden, or an adult in the open grazing. Sometimes they will purposely eat small rocks, etc. to satisfy an apparent craving or need.

In the line of why some (more minor) pyramiding occurs even with humidity, I think another question, though, is whether the substrate, and the material in which they bury, possibly effecting keratin growth as well. The chemistry of the material in contact. In captivity are we exposing the shell to chlorine, or fluoride, or water too soft, without enough free calcium ions, or too acidic??? Is the moss used in some humid hides too acidic? or is the leaf litter used too alkaline? Humidity/hydration of the keratin is most important, but it is certainly reasonable to think that perhaps the chemistry of the environment also can have a more subtle effect on keratin growth as well. I'm certainly seeing more and more evidence that is coming into play in embryonic development of scutes and developing split scutes!!
 

ColaCarbonaria

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Joined
Nov 13, 2017
Messages
245
Location (City and/or State)
Pensacola, Florida
All of my hatchlings do this. I incubate on vermiculite and I remove the babies from the incubator as soon as they leave the egg under their own power. This is usually a day or two from pipping. I always see a few little vermiculite flecks in their first poops.

A few years ago I bought some sulcata hatchlings from a breeder who incubated on perlite. A third of the babies failed, another third was mediocre, and the final third was fine. Necropsy revealed the GI tract of the failed ones was lined with gray sandy sludge. They had never been on sand or anything sand like. It was broken down perlite.

This is the reason why I tell everyone not to use perlite. I still hear breeders saying hatchlings don't eat while they have a yolk sac. I KNOW this is false. ALL of my hatchlings nibble on available food while they still have a yolk sac. I also don't understand breeders who leave the babies in the incubator for several days or a week while they are absorbing the yolk sac. Those babies are filling their GI tract with incubation media.
Just reread and May does recommend vermiculite over perlite in article. Should have stated that to begin with.
 

TammyJ

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Jun 21, 2016
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Location (City and/or State)
Jamaica
Living in the tropics, and having all kinds of natural grasses and weeds in my yard, I improve the humidity in both the outdoor and the indoor enclosures by (outdoor) placing a "mat" of damp leaves and weeds over the mesh wire top to cover the enclosure about 5/6ths, and (indoor) I provide a large bunch of green weeds and leaves which they invariably burrow into to sleep for the night, and the enclosure being almost completely covered anyway, it remains very humid overnight too.
 

Anyfoot

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5 Year Member
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Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,311
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
Why are some species more susceptible to pyramiding than others?
Could some species have thinner keratin than others. So for example a Russian may have thinner keratin than a star tortoise. If the keratin is thinner then there would be less expansion of new keratin required to be level to old keratin and maybe less downwards pressure on bone.
 

BevSmith

Active Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2017
Messages
151
Fantastic. Was just reading about pyramiding and discussing among friends. I was nearly convinced that it was due to genetics.

This is so cool.
 

wellington

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Just wanted to add. I got some leaf litter and put it in the hatchlings enclosure. After their soak, I put them back in their now leafy enclosure and within seconds, they were all gone. Buried under the leaves. Couldn't see not one of them. I had sprayed the leaves heavy with warm water and will several times thru the day. Now this is an enclosure with already high swampy humidity but leopards still pyramiding. Hoping them living within the wet leaves, helping to keep the top shell damp/wet, will help stop pyramiding and the leaves giving more cover from the hot lights.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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Just wanted to add. I got some leaf litter and put it in the hatchlings enclosure. After their soak, I put them back in their now leafy enclosure and within seconds, they were all gone. Buried under the leaves. Couldn't see not one of them. I had sprayed the leaves heavy with warm water and will several times thru the day. Now this is an enclosure with already high swampy humidity but leopards still pyramiding. Hoping them living within the wet leaves, helping to keep the top shell damp/wet, will help stop pyramiding and the leaves giving more cover from the hot lights.
What type of leaves did you use.

My concern with this technique is that they will eat the leaves. No problem if mulberry leaves are used, but some leaves are toxic.
 

wellington

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What type of leaves did you use.

My concern with this technique is that they will eat the leaves. No problem if mulberry leaves are used, but some leaves are toxic.
No, not toxic. They are dried left over leaves of the neighbors magnolia tree. I feed them in the summer when they blow into my yard. Already spoke to neighbors about the use of pesticides etc, they are free of that. they fall right along the fence/bush line so they don't really get raked up. The last couple days were warm and sunny, so they dried up and were easy to get. I should add the adults don't like them when dry. They are quite tuff. Not sure the babies would either. They did still come out to the food tile to eat.
 

Anyfoot

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Messages
6,311
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Just wanted to add. I got some leaf litter and put it in the hatchlings enclosure. After their soak, I put them back in their now leafy enclosure and within seconds, they were all gone. Buried under the leaves. Couldn't see not one of them. I had sprayed the leaves heavy with warm water and will several times thru the day. Now this is an enclosure with already high swampy humidity but leopards still pyramiding. Hoping them living within the wet leaves, helping to keep the top shell damp/wet, will help stop pyramiding and the leaves giving more cover from the hot lights.
I now use dried leaves as part of my bedding too, one thing I've noticed is that some types of leaves mould. For example bayleaves mould very easy in damp conditions, so I no longer use bayleaves. Point is keep an eye on any leaf types for mould growth. Over time we will know what not to use.
 

Cowboy_Ken

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Suburban-life in Salem, Oregon
In a fun twist to all of this, 3-4(?) years ago Tom and I were speecking about incubation substrate. I was “Old school” knowing I needed to use perlite and he was going on and on about them eating it. Ultimately I changed my ways and instead went with damp paper towels. Again, Tom warned me to watch to ensure it wasn’t getting eaten. Again, as if looking over my shoulder, Tom was correct in that call, I was watching my hatchlings going at those wet paper towels with gusto!
The problem is you’ve still got to provide hydration for your youngin’s without giving them the opportunity to “play” in water or eat the medium. What I’ve found works great for me, (and yes, I stole the idea here) is I place an aquarium air-pump outsider the herbavator. To this I add an air stone submerged in a heavy bottomed coffee mug. I have the air pump hooked up to my humidifier so they both come on at the same time. This works so well I set my current leo hatchling up with the same setup for her indoor enclosure.
I regularly feed weed and grass clumps, dirt and all, with all the creepy-crawlers in them. I’ve never seen one eaten, but then I don’t watch for that either. Typically, I place these clumps under the PowerSun figuring maybe I’d get a longer life from them. Now, I may start spreading them out more to provide a larger selection of hides than the one currently always used. I’ll let y’all know.
 

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