1. 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

Discussion in 'Advanced Tortoise Topics' started by Markw84, Feb 21, 2018.

Help Support Tortoise Forums by donating:

  1. Ellen & Toby

    Ellen & Toby Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2016
    Messages:
    95
    Likes Received:
    60
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location (City and/or State):
    Cheshire, UK
    Just curious, if humidity and external hydration is key to smooth shell growth, how does this work for desert species? How have they adapted to find enough moisture to keep them from pyramiding?
  2. TechnoCheese

    TechnoCheese Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2016
    Messages:
    3,665
    Likes Received:
    3,242
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Lewisville, Texas
    They stay in deep burrows where it’s more humid, with their poop and pee helping to keep the humidity.
    Ellen & Toby likes this.
  3. Cowboy_Ken

    Cowboy_Ken Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2011
    Messages:
    17,508
    Likes Received:
    12,922
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Suburban-life in Salem, Oregon
    Pictures or it didn’t happen. Sorry, I had to say it.
  4. TechnoCheese

    TechnoCheese Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2016
    Messages:
    3,665
    Likes Received:
    3,242
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Lewisville, Texas
    Not sure I could get pictures of the poop helping to keep humidity, but uh.. here’s a desert tortoise going into a burrow? Lol IMG_1490.jpg

    They likely don’t go out to urinate/poop, so with how damp the waste is and how deep down the burrow are, I would certainly think they would have an effect on keeping humidity.
    Ellen & Toby and wellington like this.
  5. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2014
    Messages:
    6,304
    Likes Received:
    5,245
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    UK Sheffield
    @Markw84 @Tom.

    Do you think it’s size or time that gets them out of the vulnerable supple stage of pyramiding?

    I’m leaning towards size now.

    If it is size, then by growing a tort slower are we just hanging around in that soft supple, chance of pyramiding stage for longer?

    If yes.......
    May aswell just grow them as fast as possible in humid, wet and hydrated state to get them to the hardened off stage quicker.

    Thoughts please
    Minority2 likes this.
  6. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    45,421
    Likes Received:
    25,275
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Southern California
    I move mine outside full time at about 8-10". Whenever I do this, with all of my species, growth slows tremendously and the growth lines get all rough and gnarly. Eventually, after about a year or so, they start growing again, and things seem to normalize a bit.

    This is very odd because they spend a lot of each day outside when they are 5-8", and their outdoor heated night boxes offer similar conditions to what they sleep in in their indoor enclosures. There should not be such a drastic change in their growth, but there is. I think this is the stage where people in the warm humid South East have an advantage over those of us in the hot dry South West.
    Gijoux, Cowboy_Ken and Anyfoot like this.
  7. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2014
    Messages:
    6,304
    Likes Received:
    5,245
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    UK Sheffield
    At what point do you start backing off with daily soaks?
  8. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2014
    Messages:
    6,304
    Likes Received:
    5,245
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    UK Sheffield
    Every adult I’ve took in has this gnarly look before growth commences.
  9. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    45,421
    Likes Received:
    25,275
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Southern California
    I soak daily until they reach 100 grams. At that point I start skipping a day now and then. By the time they are living outside I soak one to three times a week depending on the weather and how busy I am.
    Anyfoot likes this.
  10. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2014
    Messages:
    7,380
    Likes Received:
    24,612
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Glenn Dale, Maryland, USA

    Quick comment... I thought (and read recently) when it is really hot or during drought periods or brumation, there is very little bodily excretions happening, in fact for long periods of time, nothing. So, unlike well-kept fed and watered torts that probably go often, those out in the wilds don’t quite go that often enough to maintain humidity levels deep inside a burrow.

    Just throwing that info into the discussion.
    Gijoux, Cowboy_Ken and ColaCarbonaria like this.
  11. TechnoCheese

    TechnoCheese Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2016
    Messages:
    3,665
    Likes Received:
    3,242
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Lewisville, Texas
    During brumation or times it’s too hot to eat enough to poop, I would imagine that they don’t grow much, and since pyramiding only happens during growth, they wouldn’t pyramid. Just my thoughts on it, anyway. And even without the poop, digging down as far as they do, the soil’s usually quite a bit moister.
    Ellen & Toby and Tom like this.
  12. Cowboy_Ken

    Cowboy_Ken Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2011
    Messages:
    17,508
    Likes Received:
    12,922
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Suburban-life in Salem, Oregon
    Again I say, pictures or it didn’t happen. I’m not spending time in a burrow as l should to make such a broad based brush.
  13. TechnoCheese

    TechnoCheese Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2016
    Messages:
    3,665
    Likes Received:
    3,242
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Lewisville, Texas
    Apparently not many other people are spending time at the bottom of a burrow, because not only can I not find pictures of poop at the bottom of a burrow, I can’t find pictures of the bottom of a deep burrow period. But we know that tortoises that live in dryer environments live in deep burrows without pictures of the depth, don’t we? The “pictures or it didn’t happen” saying doesn’t work for everything, as much as I wish it did.

    With how much time tortoises spend in their burrow, even if just sitting with half their body out, would it make sense to walk out of the burrow every time they needed to poop? This mainly applies to younger tortoises and smaller species, seeing as it would be very risky to leave because of the predators that could get them. They would very likely just poop in the burrow. Heck, even My Sulcata poops in his hides, not that that’s much proof.

    While a large adult might be grazing a large portion of their time, and would likely be pooping the most while moving around, they still probably wouldn’t get out just to poop if they were in the burrow.

    Could you tell me a reason why this couldn’t be the case?
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2018
    Ellen & Toby likes this.
  14. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    45,421
    Likes Received:
    25,275
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Southern California
    I've been to the bottom of several sulcata burrows. Let me assure you all: There is poop down there.

    If you are not claustrophobic, going down sulcata burrows will make you claustrophobic.

    Found this old thread:
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/rvs-burrow.20957/
    You can see a few turds in the pics, but they are coated with dirt. There were a lot more down there, but they were all mixed in with the dirt and buried.
    TechnoCheese likes this.
  15. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2014
    Messages:
    6,304
    Likes Received:
    5,245
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    UK Sheffield
    I think all species find ways of keeping out of the scorching sun and to keep humid. Yes they bask but not all day.
    Eating,drinking, vitamin requirements and copulation requires activity, to be active they need to be warm. Most everything else does not require the intense heat of the sun. So they develop ways to keep cool when not active. Burrows, deep shade, tree fells, marshes etc.

    I’m not convinced the burrows and other methods are to keep on growing smooth. I think it’s to get out of the blazing temperatures.
    Maybe it’s how some species hydrate too.
    If a tortoise reaches a certain size and it’s gone past the vulnerable pyramiding stage then why would the burrows be for the purpose of smooth growth. I can’t imagine a 6 month old sully digging a burrow, but they are small enough to hide in wet microclimates until structure is strong enough to keep on growing smooth.
    My smooth redfoots from 2 yr old(6”SCL ish) don’t start pyramiding because I’ve stopped hydrating them. They carry on growing the same.

    Has anyone ever seen a well developed smooth tortoise start to pyramid later in life?
    Ellen & Toby likes this.
  16. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2014
    Messages:
    6,304
    Likes Received:
    5,245
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    UK Sheffield
    @Tom.

    What is the smallest size sully you’ve seen digging a burrow?
  17. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    5,037
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
    @Anyfoot Craig:

    I believe that size does have the most effect on how resistant the shell becomes to pyramiding. The more the bones have thickened and developed nice, dense structure, the more resistant to pyramiding they become. For a sulcata, my observations have been that once it reaches about 10" or so, if grown with a good diet and has good bone density, then pyramiding does not occur in mine. Like @Tom I put mine out full time once they are about 8-10" in a very dry summertime climate. Even before I was aware of the humidity solution, I still noticed mine smoothed out and grew very nicely from that point on. There was nothing I could do back then, to stop the young ones from pyramiding, though.

    Not so coincidentally, in the wild, Sulcatas do not begin digging their own burrows until they are about 10-12" - or normally in their third year. Up until that time, they are small enough to still easily bury themselves in moist sand under plant roots and other moist areas they seek out. So it would seem keeping buried, keeps them growing smooth, not using a burrow. Young sulcatas, when actually found, tend to congregate in groups and dig into favored, moist sandy areas and keep covered.
  18. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2014
    Messages:
    6,304
    Likes Received:
    5,245
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    UK Sheffield
    That makes sense.

    I’m assuming you have experiments going on with soaking, humidity and buried hatchings.
    I’m starting to think that humidity alone can still allow pyramiding. Carapace hydration for smooth growth is either soaking or actual wet/moist soil, foliage or other moist debris touching the carapace.
    Just thoughts. Not facts.
    TechnoCheese likes this.
  19. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    45,421
    Likes Received:
    25,275
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Southern California
    I've never seen anything written on wild baby or juvenile sulcatas. Where are you getting this info? I wanna read it too!!!
    Cowboy_Ken likes this.
  20. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2010
    Messages:
    45,421
    Likes Received:
    25,275
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location (City and/or State):
    Southern California
    I once saw a 4 incher going to town, and also a 6 incher one time, but those are both one time only very unusual cases. Normally, the actual burrowing doesn't start until they are about 10-12" like Mark noted.


    I don't think the burrow is intentionally used as a pyramiding preventative by wild sulcatas. I think pyramiding prevention is a side effect of burrow usage, and burrow usage is simply a way to avoid above ground temperature extremes as you noted.
    Ketta, Cowboy_Ken and Anyfoot like this.
Similar Threads: Pyramiding Solving
Forum Title Date
Advanced Tortoise Topics Pyramiding? Unsure?advice most welcome Monday at 1:27 AM
Advanced Tortoise Topics How early can you see pyramiding? May 4, 2019
Advanced Tortoise Topics Pyramiding... Feb 12, 2019
Advanced Tortoise Topics CherryHead Early Signs of Pyramiding? Sep 27, 2018
Advanced Tortoise Topics Pyramiding can it be cured? Aug 16, 2018

Share This Page