• 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!

Pyramiding – Solving the Mystery

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
46,503
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
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.
Pics?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
46,503
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
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!
Your first paragraph made me chuckle. Some times when new members start arguing with me about stuff, I ask them: "How do you think I know the things I'm telling you?" And hopefully I don't have to point out that while I've done whatever we are talking about lots of times, they have never done it.

Some people just gotta learn the hard way. I'm guilty of it myself sometimes.
 

sutra

New Member
Joined
Feb 4, 2018
Messages
4
Location (City and/or State)
PORTUGAL
Hi
We are a rookie here, from Portugal. We have a great wheather here all over the year.

Read all Mark wrote and think that is a great work, investigation and well care.
We have learned so much with you. Thanks.
Here everyone's try to sell pyraminded turtles.
we are not breaders, just have them because we like the way they move....
If they matte?
yes, we heard them screaming, but do not intrude.
It's their life in nature.
They live outdoors, do the hibernation/estivation outside.
All of them have chip and cites
Take care (do not own them, because they are free) of:
4 hermannis hermannis (1 male and 3 females) with about 30 years each
4 graecca mora females with 5 years (recently adopted)
2 marginatas, male and female with 10 years.

We would like to know if we can join the hermannis with the graeccas in the ground?
There is no graecca male, so there will be no fighting
Thank you all for reading this.



I
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
46,503
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
We would like to know if we can join the hermannis with the graeccas in the ground?
There is no graecca male, so there will be no fighting
Thank you all for reading this.
Species should never be mixed. And females fight too sometimes.
 

sutra

New Member
Joined
Feb 4, 2018
Messages
4
Location (City and/or State)
PORTUGAL
Species should never be mixed. And females fight too sometimes.
Thank you for your reply
And a question to Mark:
After they start pyramiding there's anyway to stop it?
These little gays 4 legs friends animals, give more trouble and care than 10 dogs I have.
Thk you all
 
Last edited:

Markw84

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
3,485
Location (City and/or State)
Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
Thank you for your reply
And a question to Mark:
After they start pyramiding there's anyway to stop it?
These little gays 4 legs friends animals, give more trouble and care than 10 dogs I have.
Thk you all
It is quite dependent upon how long it has been going on. If caught early and with a young tortoise, it is quite easy to get new growth to come in very smooth. What is already pyramided will remain that way, but new growth can make if less obvious over time. You end up with scutes that are pretty flat with a raised peak in the very center. If it has progressed and the tortoise is 3 years old or more, it is quite hard to reverse the growth pattern - especially in the vertebrals where all the bone is fully ossified. Also, at the vertebrals, the bone beneath is 10 different bones that are covered by the 5 vertebral scutes. So the actual plane of the whole bone becomes tipped. The costals can still start to smooth out new growth quite easily up to about 5-6 years.
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,311
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
I remember as a young boy one of the things that fueled my interest with chelonians was seeing how much was just NOT KNOWN about them. When I became fascinated with an animal, I ran to the encyclopedia to find out about it. I also always went to the library and checked out every book I could find on the subject. What is the best diet? Temperature? How about incubating eggs when I got them? Nowhere could I find anything about what temperature was best. So I had to figure things out myself. Today we are so lucky with information at our fingertips. The internet – this forum! Yet still today, when it comes to chelonians, so much still seems to no be KNOWN. Most everything is, at best, debated. Some proposing one way, while another ‘expert’ says that won’t work. But we do have a chance now to see literally thousands of examples of results. But even results can be misleading if we don’t take into consideration the unique conditions that keeper in that part of the world provided. So little seems to be KNOWN!

Pyramiding is one of the best examples. In todays world of modern technology and scientific knowledge, there is still no proposed theory anywhere on how, metabolically, pyramiding even happens. It was just the last decade that it even became more apparent how to even prevent it. But that is still hotly debated. Most import of wild caught tortoises has been stopped for some time now. Pyramided tortoise has become the norm. Most pictures and artwork depicting tortoise show pyramided tortoise as “normal”!

We have enough evidence now to see that humidity is the key to preventing it. I can now grow smooth tortoises at will, after over 40 years of never being able to. I tried side by side groups of low protein vs higher protein groups. Groups of Fast growth vs slow growth. 3 groups of Store bough greens vs commercial pellets, vs natural grazing only. Stable temperatures vs night drops. Everything all the ‘experts’ said, I tried. Then I heard about humidity. I found this forum and read Tom’s thread on ending pyramiding. It all made sense immediately. I think it was the frustration of failing so many times and having to try so many proposed solutions that allowed me to find all the things that did not affect pyramiding. So many who have not had to struggle with it because of their location do not have that perspective. They will say it is diet, exercise, slower growth, etc, etc. All necessary for the most healthy of tortoises, but I found had nothing to do with pyramiding.

So, once I found out how to keep tortoises from pyramiding, the question still remained – why? Why did humidity work? Why didn’t diet or fast growth or exercise matter? I needed to know why! And no one, nowhere, knew why. There were enough pieces to the puzzle that were known. I had watched tortoise grow for decades. I monitored how pyramiding started and progressed. I could see what was happening. But to put the remaining pieces together took me into research in the anatomy and physiology of tortoise, keratin growth, bone growth, and even orthodontics.

A tortoise is a very uniquely modified animal. It is a vertebrate, yet carries its main skeletal structure on the outside. To protect this outside, exposed bone, another protective layer of keratin has developed over the bone. This is a unique adaptation as two hard surfaces normally do not come immediately in contact with each other in vertebrates. Bones are surrounded by cartilage and muscle - and even in more exposed areas, layers of hair and skin that cushion and provide ample blood flow. Keratin is also an interesting substance. Forming hair, nails, feathers, horns, it normally grows where the new keratin being formed is protected by living tissue from drying too quickly. Cuticles, hair follicles, feather sheaths, scalp around the base of horns, etc, etc. The tortoise, however, grows keratin that is exposed immediately to the external environment as it starts to spread and grow. No protective covering on the outside growth areas.

If you watch a tortoise grow and pyramid, you soon see that pyramiding is driven by the scutes, not by bone. For maximum strength, the scutes of a tortoise never align with the seams of an underlying bone. They all overlap - creating a very strong structure. Yet when a tortoise pyramids, the pyramiding ALWAYS follows the pattern of the scute. Where individual bones lay has no effect on the pattern of pyramiding. The scute remains a uniform thickness. It does not thicken in the center. The bone also retains a fairly uniform thickness, but deforms to match to shape of the pyramiding. Bone would not grow that way unless something was forcing it to deform. I also saw that pyramiding was the forming of valleys at the seams of scutes, not the raising of the centers. A perfectly smooth tortoise will have the higher, more domed look that matches the peaks of a pyramided tortoise, not the valleys.

From studies on keratin, we see that keratin is quite hydroscopic when new and forming. It is more pliable and absorbs water easily. As it matures, and “dries” it becomes much harder and stiffer and loses most of its hydroscopic properties and no longer absorbs water and swells. It becomes a much stiffer and stronger, protective substance. Tortoises add very little thickness to a scute as it grows. New keratin is formed at the seams of the spreading scutes as a tortoise grows. As the underlying bone grows, the seam spreads between the scutes. Keratin spreads outward to fill this seam and slowly adds thickness, swelling to match the “finished” thickness of the scute. Often, this new keratin will swell thicker than the older scute section and create a ridge in a faster growing “smooth” tortoise. This will dry and age over the next several months and smooth out to a more flush level, but leave a distinct ‘growth ring’. The thickness of the scute of a 30” sulcata is pretty much the same as a 15” sulcata. New keratin is not added to the underside of the central parts of scutes as a tortoise grows.

They have no protective layer over the new keratin growth, so the outside of the newly forming keratin is exposed to the environment. If while this new keratin is growing and spreading, it is exposed to conditions that allow it to dry too quickly, it will lose its ability to continue to swell and fill in thickness. The underside of the keratin, in direct contact to living tissue (the epithelial layer) still is pliable and swelling. This imbalance forces the new growth to swell downward as it cannot continue to fill in upward. This puts a small but constant pressure on that epithelial layer and puts it in compression as it is being pressed into the bone below. This is the beginning of pyramiding.

How does this slight pressure deform bone? As mentioned earlier, the tortoise shell is very uncommon in vertebrates in having bone next to a hard surface. There is a very thin layer of tissue that separated the bone from the scutes called the epithelial layer. This delivers blood supply and nutrients to the bone and new keratin growth and creates a barrier between the bone and the hard scute. Epithelial tissues are everywhere in a vertebrate. It covers the outside of your body (skin), lines organs, vessels, and cavities. But it also is defined by not covering a hard surface and in direct contact with bone. However, there is one place I found something most similar to this positioning of hard surfaces. Teeth and the jaw bone. There is a layer formed between the teeth and the jawbone that separates and somewhat cushions the jawbone from the teeth. It is called the periodontal ligament. It still retains pockets of epithelial cells throughout that effects some of its functions. AND, it was In studying examples of how bone can be deformed or reshaped, I again was lead to teeth.

When a slight but consistent pressure is applied to a tooth, it puts the periodontal ligament into compression on one side of the tooth in the direction of the pressure. That triggers the formation of an important type of cell in our bodies called osteoclasts. Osteoclasts are specialized cells that break down and dissolve bone. Bones are constantly restructuring and rebuilding. Another type cell, the osteoblast – builds new bone. This adds density to our bones and grows our bones when we are younger. Under stress, (exercise) it is triggered to build density and more strength. Osteoclasts, on the other hand, are called into play to remove older bone, and also to tap into the stores of calcium and phosphorus in our bones in times where our levels of calcium or phosphorus in our blood drops too low. Our bones are more than an inert structural item. They are living, constantly remodeling stores of tissue and minerals.

So how do they move teeth? Apply a slight but constant pressure on a tooth. That puts the periodontal ligament in compression on one side of the tooth. That triggers the formation of a bunch of extra osteoclasts that form at that site of the pressure and start dissolving bone to relieve that pressure. On the other side of the tooth, the periodontal ligament is then in tension. This triggers osteoblasts that are called into action and an abundance of osteoblasts go to work forming new bone to fill in the area that is putting the periodontal ligament in tension. So - the bone is not deformed. It is broken down and removed on one side and new bone is built on the other side.

In our tortoises, when the new keratin dries to quickly, it is putting that epithelial layer into compression as the new keratin growth can only swell and fill in downward. The epithelial layer call osteoclasts into action at the site to dissolve and remove bone and relieve the compression on that epithelial layer. This creates a groove in the bone directly under the new growth. Even in smooth, “normal growth” tortoises, you can often see grooves in the bone formed by the growth rings. However, if the dry conditions persist and the tortoise continues to grow in conditions that are too dry, the newly forming seam will also press down on the epithelial layer over the bone and deepen the groove forming into a valley. If this continues, the actual plane of the bone is changed to the pyramided shape. Bone does not grow from the seams, but instead grows from wide areas throughout the bone. So the tipped areas themselves (particularly along the vertebrals with more bones than scutes) will be growing bone in a direction that will simply add to the pyramiding. That will make it much harder to alter the pyramiding in a tortoise once it has progressed substantially. Yet a young tortoise, with just the start of pyramiding, can develop quite smooth future growth easily at an earlier stage that hasn’t progressed too far.

So - for me this answered all the questions. All the pieces fit and all the scenarios I actually see, anywhere, all fit. There are two things needed to pyramid a tortoise. Active growth and dry conditions. It is only by putting the epithelial layer into compression that osteoclasts will be formed to dissolve bone under the area in compression.

Diet will not matter. Pressure triggers osteoclast genesis. With poor diet you can have a tortoise with pyramiding PLUS metabolic bone disease. If anything, the pyramiding is releasing a bit more calcium into the bloodstream to help bone growth elsewhere! If diet is so poor that growth is stopped, of course there would be no pyramiding because there is no growth of new keratin.

Excess protein will not trigger osteoclast genesis. And certainly not only in specific areas under scute seams. Excess protein will create excess purines and possible stone formation problems. Smooth or pyramided!

Exercise does trigger osteoblasts genesis and better bone growth and density. It does not trigger osteoclast genesis and again would have no effect on localizing that under scute seams.

Fast growth does not affect pyramiding. You can have fast growing smooth tortoises and fast growing pyramided tortoises. Just as you can have slow growing smooth tortoises or slow growing pyramided tortoises. If they grow, fast or slow, when conditions are too dry – they will pyramid.

UVB exposure will not change pyramiding. It will certainly affect calcium uptake and utilization as D3 is necessary for that. So it will affect bone growth, but will not trigger bone dissolving in such a specific, localized area as only under the scute seams. In extreme cases, it will lead to metabolic bone disease as osteoclasts are triggered throughout the greater storage rich bone areas as it looks to release calcium back in to the blood stream. But that is also more concentrated in the hip and pelvic bones and plastral bones. Not at all calling osteoclasts into play under scute seams. Totally separate metabolic events.

Tortoises have ended up in the wild in “left over” habitats. They have been outcompeted and predated upon in any of the more favorable habitats. Their survival is because the have found way to survive in habitats that are much more hostile. Water is the key ingredient to survival. They are masters at maintaining it and finding microclimates that are less harsh. Nature gives them food and growth along with the moisture. In drier times, the food disappears, and the tortoise aestivates or brumates and does not grow. Their first few years, most tortoises spend their lives buried in the ground, or in leaf litter, always protecting themselves not only from predation, but from desiccation.

In so many areas their ‘natural range’ has been altered by man. With the advent of irrigation and reservoirs, the expansion of agriculture into their native ranges has even changed the food availability to drier times of the year and we see pyramided “wild” tortoises. Or so many now kept in compounds and fed through drier times and kept from digging and burrowing naturally – it is hard to tell what a “natural” tortoise looks like. We would have to look back 1000 years or so in many areas to really see a true wild tortoise in totally unchanged habitat. Certainly, in captivity, we have changed the way they live and the way they look.

Perhaps we are now learning enough to finally learn the conditions in which these amazing animals will do best. I am seeing more and more examples of tortoises that I believe look the way they were designed to grow. Maybe that will soon become the norm. Hopefully in the not too distant future we will see smooth tortoises again represented in the pictures and artwork depicting their species.
I'd be interested in your thoughts on this theory @domalle
 

domalle

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Dec 9, 2011
Messages
473
I'd be interested in your thoughts on this theory @domalle
@Anyfoot
Beyond my capabilities on the technical side of the issue but impressed by @Markw84's insight, erudition and effort in the presentation of the argument so eloquently. Humidity is a major factor in raising smooth tortoises but 'old school'. Have raised smooth animals on newspaper bedding (for reasons of hygiene) under suboptimal conditions of humidity. Admittedly this was due to limitations on facilities, not out of any rejection of the beneficial aspects of humidity and hydration on shell formation and development. And the animals were exposed to naturally humid outside summer quarters in a semi-wild state with free graze.
 
Last edited:

keepergale

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2013
Messages
761
Location (City and/or State)
san diego
So this great thread got me thinking. I think I remember reading much of a tortoises UV absorbson is thru their skin. In any case, I was thinking if the scute edges are the critical area of the carapace development shouldn’t it be safe to topically apply the moisturizing agent of your choosing only there. I don’t know if that should be coconut oil, specialized tortoise shell products or even Vaseline. Any safe semi permanent product would do.
If I am wrong about UV absorbtion thru the carapace the limited application I am suggesting should not have a negative effect anyway.
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,311
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
So this great thread got me thinking. I think I remember reading much of a tortoises UV absorbson is thru their skin. In any case, I was thinking if the scute edges are the critical area of the carapace development shouldn’t it be safe to topically apply the moisturizing agent of your choosing only there. I don’t know if that should be coconut oil, specialized tortoise shell products or even Vaseline. Any safe semi permanent product would do.
If I am wrong about UV absorbtion thru the carapace the limited application I am suggesting should not have a negative effect anyway.
We don't know for a fact but we don't think UV absorption is through the carapace. If I'm understanding you correctly, Yes only the scute borders where new growth is needs moisturising. I've thought of this for quite some time, but I have shares in a coconut oil factory. :D:D:D
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,311
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
@Anyfoot
Beyond my capabilities on the technical side of the issue but impressed by @Markw84's insight, erudition and effort in the presentation of the argument so eloquently. Humidity is a major factor in raising smooth tortoises but 'old school'. Have raised smooth animals on newspaper bedding (for reasons of hygiene) under suboptimal conditions of humidity. Admittedly this was due to limitations on facilities, not out of any rejection of the beneficial aspects of humidity and hydration on shell formation and development. And the animals were exposed to naturally humid outside summer quarters in a semi-wild state with free graze.
Has the old school raised smooth tortoises on newspaper from the egg? To get a 12 or even a 6 month old tort and start raising it in a dry environment and for it to grow on smooth would be a false reading. The first 6 or 12 months could have been humid to give it a good start and less of a chance of pyramiding at a later stage even when kept on newspaper in a dry environment.
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,311
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
This may just be some random nonsense,but I do think all observations should be thrown in the pot regardless.
My radiateds carapace do not hold moisture like my redfoots do. If I wet the radiated the water turns to droplets and just runs off, except at the borders where new growth is, this area absorbs the moisture.
If I do the same with my redfoots their entire carapace absorbs moisture giving them a dull Matt color. However the redfoots will be dry again within the hour. Even with 80% humidity and no drying heat source.
My radiateds carapace look more glossy and less porous than the redfoots.
It may well be because I've maintained moisture from the egg on the redfoots and created a more porous surface than what the breeder did with my radiated. IDK.
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,311
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
Something else I thought about in the past is why do some tortoises have scutes pulled together. Is it where an intense heat supply has dried out one side of the scute more than the other. So 2 scutes that have pulled together have been kept dryer where they meet. In effect the adjacent scute sides are more pyramiding than the opposite sides of those 2 scutes.
This then leads onto the question, could I actually make a tortoise pyramid on only certain scutes I select to pyramid?(not that I ever would want to). If I raised a tort in a dry climate with no basking spots, and coconuted let's say the back 3 vertebral scute borders would I force the rest to pyramid. I would think the answer is NO. So that means the new keratin either tracks moisture very easily or internal moisture is playing a bigger role than we think, or it's all about humidity because that would nearly always be equal over the carapace, and torts with pulled scutes is either a birth defect or incorrect use of heat sources.
 

Markw84

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
3,485
Location (City and/or State)
Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
So this great thread got me thinking. I think I remember reading much of a tortoises UV absorbson is thru their skin. In any case, I was thinking if the scute edges are the critical area of the carapace development shouldn’t it be safe to topically apply the moisturizing agent of your choosing only there. I don’t know if that should be coconut oil, specialized tortoise shell products or even Vaseline. Any safe semi permanent product would do.
If I am wrong about UV absorbtion thru the carapace the limited application I am suggesting should not have a negative effect anyway.
UVB penetration is effected greatly by skin color and skin thickness. UVB does not penetrate keratin. Dark colors quickly reduce UVB penetration. A good supply of blood flow to the area is also vital. This process happens in skin cells and, more particularly, the plasma membrane of skin cells. There is a different cellular structure at the scute seams. So the only real areas where UVB is utilized for the beginning of D3 synthesis is the thinner skin of the neck, and the underside and upper parts of the legs. These areas normally have much thinner skin and the skin is normally lighter colored there. I don't see how there would be any UVB synthesis going on at the scute seams.
 

Markw84

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
3,485
Location (City and/or State)
Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
This may just be some random nonsense,but I do think all observations should be thrown in the pot regardless.
My radiateds carapace do not hold moisture like my redfoots do. If I wet the radiated the water turns to droplets and just runs off, except at the borders where new growth is, this area absorbs the moisture.
If I do the same with my redfoots their entire carapace absorbs moisture giving them a dull Matt color. However the redfoots will be dry again within the hour. Even with 80% humidity and no drying heat source.
My radiateds carapace look more glossy and less porous than the redfoots.
It may well be because I've maintained moisture from the egg on the redfoots and created a more porous surface than what the breeder did with my radiated. IDK.
I could certainly believe that the way you are raising your redfoot keeps their keratin in the scutes far more hydrosopic. Exposure to drier conditions for times, and aging would cause the keratin to become much harder, and more resistant to any water uptake and also thus protecting the tortoise more from water loss. That could be why the early years are so important on shell development, and why we are seeing young tortoises remain so cryptic and avoid exposure to any drying conditions so well in nature.
 

domalle

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Dec 9, 2011
Messages
473
Has the old school raised smooth tortoises on newspaper from the egg? To get a 12 or even a 6 month old tort and start raising it in a dry environment and for it to grow on smooth would be a false reading. The first 6 or 12 months could have been humid to give it a good start and less of a chance of pyramiding at a later stage even when kept on newspaper in a dry environment.
@Anyfoot
The humid summer months and time outside in the semi-wild state with natural sunlight and graze proved adequate for shell development, with our limited samples, despite the drier conditions indoors most of the year. But I am by no means dismissing current ideas on humidity and the physiology of shell development, just leery when it becomes true religion orthodoxy and tips over into the dogmatic and doctrinaire.
It would be the height of foolishness to espouse raising hatchlings of any kind on newspaper to the novice or typical petkeeper, although ours grew up the most literate of tortoises and did very well in school.
Petkeepers are feeling pressured now to produce 'perfect' animals with exacting requirements blared out on the forum and parroted by the newly initiated.
We all make mistakes along the way. There is room for error. It is by these sometimes painful learning experiences and errors, not indoctrination, that we become 'experienced' keepers. There are no magic formulae, just decent and reasonable guidelines.
 

Peggy Sue

Active Member
Joined
Nov 22, 2017
Messages
144
Location (City and/or State)
Grants Pass Oregon
Very informative article Mark! Helped me understand pyramiding, I am very interested in the coconut oil theory can anyone tell me what kind they use and how often? And does it inter fear with the daily soaks? Or is the moisture still absorbed through the shell with the oil on it?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
46,503
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
@Anyfoot
Beyond my capabilities on the technical side of the issue but impressed by @Markw84's insight, erudition and effort in the presentation of the argument so eloquently. Humidity is a major factor in raising smooth tortoises but 'old school'. Have raised smooth animals on newspaper bedding (for reasons of hygiene) under suboptimal conditions of humidity. Admittedly this was due to limitations on facilities, not out of any rejection of the beneficial aspects of humidity and hydration on shell formation and development. And the animals were exposed to naturally humid outside summer quarters in a semi-wild state with free graze.
What species are you referring to here, and what growth rates did you see during these indoor dry times? Did they do most of their growing in the more humid outdoor conditions?
 

Markw84

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
3,485
Location (City and/or State)
Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
Very informative article Mark! Helped me understand pyramiding, I am very interested in the coconut oil theory can anyone tell me what kind they use and how often? And does it inter fear with the daily soaks? Or is the moisture still absorbed through the shell with the oil on it?
The "coconut oil theory" is not widely accepted by many it seems. But i am seeing more and more examples where it seems to have merit in HELPING.

The issue is keeping new keratin growth, especially in younger, actively growing tortoise, from desiccating and drying too quickly. When the type of keratin that forms tortoise scutes dries out, it becomes very stiff, water resistant and strong. That become a good protective shield for a tortoise. But while the keratin is still forming and thickening at new growth seams, if it dries too quickly, it becomes stiffer and hardens before the seam has fully formed. So we are becoming aware it is important to create an environment for young tortoises where that drying does not occur.

In nature, growth in wetter times and staying buried or covered in leaf litter and deep in grass clumps does this. Young tortoises are rarely ever seen in the wild and very hard to find. The nest the mother dug and the eggshell protected the keratin developing for the embryo tortoise. Once they hatch, most will stay in the moist nest chamber until rain and moisture from above stimulates them to dig up and emerge. But then, they must find cover immediately. Not only for protection from predators, but to protect their develping shells (and themselves) from drying out. They seem like perfect little fully formed tortoises, but in reality, they are still too fragile for the environment they can find themselves in.

I believe we are just learning the extent of this. In captivity, we therefore need to find ways to help them continue that early development and create environments that allow that to happen. This is not just an effort to grow a "perfect" looking tortoise. That is what we see on the outside. But the drying is doing more than pyramiding the shell. It is also effecting the formation of the organs and functions of the tortoise. So for me, seeing how well their shell is developing gives me insight into how well the entire tortoise is being allowed to develop. Their entire structure and lifestyle has developed to preserve moisture. Until they are more fully formed, they must be much better about protecting themselves. Once their shell, and their organs and metabolism has grown to a more resistant level, they are much better equipped to be "out and about". I think this realization is helping us understand why we see so many baby tortoise simply "fail to thrive".

We can therefore raise the humidity in their enclosures. This helps keep the tortoise from desiccating. Not just the shell, but the entire tortoise. Same with daily soaking and humid hides or plenty of humid cover.

SO.. now to your question directly - Coconut oil may indeed help keep a tortoise's shell growing better as it does seem it should keep the new keratin from drying excessively and retain moisture. So in an effort to grow a pretty, perfect looking tortoise, it may have great added value. However, we must still be sure the inside of the tortoise is not drying excessively. So this could be a misleading "solution" if it ever is seen as a substitute for humidity. I don't want to just grow a nice looking tortoise. I want the whole tortoise allowed to grow properly during those early growing years. Coconut oil applied once or twice a week as a moisturizing agent for the shell would not interfere with and certainly should not replace the bath. Moisture is not absorbed through the shell. We are trying to keep the new growth seams from drying out and losing moisture. But we are also trying to allow the tortoise to drink and soak and absorb water through skin contact in the bath. The same with humidity in the enclosure. The shell, the skin, the eyes, the insides of the lungs as it breathes - everything needs moisture. Not just the shell.

My interest in pyramiding is not to grow a perfect looking tortoise. My interest in pyramiding is because the way the shell grows is our visible sign we can take note of on how the ENTIRE tortoise is growing - inside and out.
 

Peggy Sue

Active Member
Joined
Nov 22, 2017
Messages
144
Location (City and/or State)
Grants Pass Oregon
T
The "coconut oil theory" is not widely accepted by many it seems. But i am seeing more and more examples where it seems to have merit in HELPING.

The issue is keeping new keratin growth, especially in younger, actively growing tortoise, from desiccating and drying too quickly. When the type of keratin that forms tortoise scutes dries out, it becomes very stiff, water resistant and strong. That become a good protective shield for a tortoise. But while the keratin is still forming and thickening at new growth seams, if it dries too quickly, it becomes stiffer and hardens before the seam has fully formed. So we are becoming aware it is important to create an environment for young tortoises where that drying does not occur.

In nature, growth in wetter times and staying buried or covered in leaf litter and deep in grass clumps does this. Young tortoises are rarely ever seen in the wild and very hard to find. The nest the mother dug and the eggshell protected the keratin developing for the embryo tortoise. Once they hatch, most will stay in the moist nest chamber until rain and moisture from above stimulates them to dig up and emerge. But then, they must find cover immediately. Not only for protection from predators, but to protect their develping shells (and themselves) from drying out. They seem like perfect little fully formed tortoises, but in reality, they are still too fragile for the environment they can find themselves in.

I believe we are just learning the extent of this. In captivity, we therefore need to find ways to help them continue that early development and create environments that allow that to happen. This is not just an effort to grow a "perfect" looking tortoise. That is what we see on the outside. But the drying is doing more than pyramiding the shell. It is also effecting the formation of the organs and functions of the tortoise. So for me, seeing how well their shell is developing gives me insight into how well the entire tortoise is being allowed to develop. Their entire structure and lifestyle has developed to preserve moisture. Until they are more fully formed, they must be much better about protecting themselves. Once their shell, and their organs and metabolism has grown to a more resistant level, they are much better equipped to be "out and about". I think this realization is helping us understand why we see so many baby tortoise simply "fail to thrive".

We can therefore raise the humidity in their enclosures. This helps keep the tortoise from desiccating. Not just the shell, but the entire tortoise. Same with daily soaking and humid hides or plenty of humid cover.

SO.. now to your question directly - Coconut oil may indeed help keep a tortoise's shell growing better as it does seem it should keep the new keratin from drying excessively and retain moisture. So in an effort to grow a pretty, perfect looking tortoise, it may have great added value. However, we must still be sure the inside of the tortoise is not drying excessively. So this could be a misleading "solution" if it ever is seen as a substitute for humidity. I don't want to just grow a nice looking tortoise. I want the whole tortoise allowed to grow properly during those early growing years. Coconut oil applied once or twice a week as a moisturizing agent for the shell would not interfere with and certainly should not replace the bath. Moisture is not absorbed through the shell. We are trying to keep the new growth seams from drying out and losing moisture. But we are also trying to allow the tortoise to drink and soak and absorb water through skin contact in the bath. The same with humidity in the enclosure. The shell, the skin, the eyes, the insides of the lungs as it breathes - everything needs moisture. Not just the shell.

My interest in pyramiding is not to grow a perfect looking tortoise. My interest in pyramiding is because the way the shell grows is our visible sign we can take note of on how the ENTIRE tortoise is growing - inside and out.
Thank you for the excellent answer Mark we lost a baby to the failure to thrive, so with our Sheldon I am looking to make sure we raise a healthy tortoise he get a soak in the morning and one in the evening and has the proper humidity
 

New Posts

Top