Smooth wild redfoot.

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,312
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
I wanted to start a discussion on why some wild redfoots show signs of a super smooth surface finish on the carapace(almost like a bowling ball in some cases) and why captive bred reds don't. As time passes we are seeing more and more good quality smooth captive bred(CB) torts, but they never have the super smooth surface finish(texture) o n the carapace. The overall shape is good but the growth lines are blatantly obvious with peaks and valleys when you zoom in.

Also I've seen large WC that are in captivity and the new owner rears them with perfect form, however the new growth in captivity is never the same as the wild growth, yes it carries on growing smooth but not on the same plane as the wild growth and not as smoother surface finish and it's always lower.
Thoughts that run through my head are things like.....

Are we growing them too fast, if the growth rings are tighter together then does this give a smoother surface finish.

Is it abrasion from a constant barrage of pushing through dense foliage.

Is it abrasion from hiding in burrows, but would this really give a smooth surface finish as even as we see.

Is it the growth, as they get older is new keratin growth growing over old growth, does this answer why some torts have thicker growth than others, or is the thick growth because they grew so slowly in the wild.

Do they get a constant barrage of heavy rain for prolonged parts of the yr, does hiding in grass with heavy rain pounding the carapace smooth it off. Sounds far fetched, but it happens to rocks/stones. Keratin is softer than stone.

A few random photos I found on the net to look at. The first one thinking is wild caught with a small amount of good captive growth at a lower level.
Last one I'm thinking is showing a very good CB (probably farm raised) in the foreground and a WC in the background.

A few other questions I keep asking myself that could be related to how a carapace grows.
Are we able to dictate a tortoises metabolism and growth rate to how we start it off regarding diet. I have some juveniles that are happy to eat what they need and go hide for days at a time sometimes, I have others that are just out and out greedy, even though they are all growing into sub adults they follow the same eating pattern. Some scoff everything and some seem to eat what they need and thats it. In nature for fear of being eaten as a baby do they just eat what's necessary to survive then hide away until bigger. This could be imitated in what I'm seeing, the ones that don't eat like pigs were the subordinate babies, the dominant become pigs and grow faster, is there no dominant pigs in the wild because all are potential prey.
Also when we see a difference in growth when a WC is brought into captivity, is it because no matter what we can not imitate the exact diet of where the WC's locality was. This would suggest diet is related to the Carapaces appearance.

Yes I know I know, I think too much :D
Screenshot_2017-02-13-08-28-35~2.png Screenshot_2017-02-13-08-28-46~2.png Screenshot_2017-02-13-08-29-36~2.png Screenshot_2017-02-13-08-30-15~2.png
 

cdmay

Well-Known Member
10 Year Member!
Joined
Feb 1, 2008
Messages
1,919
Location (City and/or State)
Somewhere in Florida
Good questions and an interesting subject.
My simple answer is one word---age.
The more complicated answer is age X habitat X population X diet X size/weight = smooth shell.
Young adult red-foot tortoises from Bolivia have thick, very uniform growth rings that appear so perfect that it's almost hard to believe. Even on their plastrons. But then of course older and larger tortoises have shells that are progressively smoother until you arrive at a point where you have a completely smooth surface. The general habitat is seasonally dry thornscrub that has mammal burrows and accumulated dead brushwood.
One can only conclude that over a long period of time (decades) these tortoises simply do wear down their shells. I also think that the larger they become, the more resistance they encounter simple traversing their habitat-- the bigger and bulkier you are, the harder it is to force your way through the brush.
I can't say for sure but I would bet that the tortoises in the Chaco region of Bolivia and Paraguay probably grow slower than animals in other parts of South America.

Another area that I have seen high numbers of imported adults from is the Suriname/Guyana region. These tortoises don't ever seem to be as sculpted as the Bolivians and Paraguayans although here again, the younger animals do have very nice and uniform growth rings. But for whatever reason, the larger individuals seem to be really smooth--is it their habitat? I think the various studies indicate that these tortoises are ingesting more fruits and flowers than the previous mentioned animals too. Could this be a contributing factor?

The fact that older or smoother imported tortoises suddenly develop deeper or more widely separated growth margins after some time in captivity simply means that they are likely getting a lot more food than they might have been in the past. They probably weight more in captivity (assuming they are healthy and eating well) than they did while in their wild habitat as well.
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,312
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
Good questions and an interesting subject.
My simple answer is one word---age.
The more complicated answer is age X habitat X population X diet X size/weight = smooth shell.
Young adult red-foot tortoises from Bolivia have thick, very uniform growth rings that appear so perfect that it's almost hard to believe. Even on their plastrons. But then of course older and larger tortoises have shells that are progressively smoother until you arrive at a point where you have a completely smooth surface. The general habitat is seasonally dry thornscrub that has mammal burrows and accumulated dead brushwood.
One can only conclude that over a long period of time (decades) these tortoises simply do wear down their shells. I also think that the larger they become, the more resistance they encounter simple traversing their habitat-- the bigger and bulkier you are, the harder it is to force your way through the brush.
I can't say for sure but I would bet that the tortoises in the Chaco region of Bolivia and Paraguay probably grow slower than animals in other parts of South America.

Another area that I have seen high numbers of imported adults from is the Suriname/Guyana region. These tortoises don't ever seem to be as sculpted as the Bolivians and Paraguayans although here again, the younger animals do have very nice and uniform growth rings. But for whatever reason, the larger individuals seem to be really smooth--is it their habitat? I think the various studies indicate that these tortoises are ingesting more fruits and flowers than the previous mentioned animals too. Could this be a contributing factor?

The fact that older or smoother imported tortoises suddenly develop deeper or more widely separated growth margins after some time in captivity simply means that they are likely getting a lot more food than they might have been in the past. They probably weight more in captivity (assuming they are healthy and eating well) than they did while in their wild habitat as well.
Interesting.
So regarding the wider growth margins. If new keratin growth relies on a good protein source because keratin is protein based. (I'm not saying just animal protein, there could very well be high protein foliage in the wild, after all I'm assuming herbivores get it from grazing). Does it mean we are growing our torts fast through very high nutritional foods to the point the keratin can't keep up with the fast growth so it's thinner creating the look of being lower down.
I need to get a more up to date picture of this baby tonight. I had it on a super strict diet, I only fed it weeds/flowers and every day one piece of mushroom or fruit. It ate the shroom or fruit first then had no option but eat weeds. Then winter came, for the last 6 maybe 8 wks I've had to replace the vast majority of the weeds with groceries. In this photo you can see the deeper crevice appearing, tonight I'll show you another photo which shows the deeper crevice growing at the same smooth shape and contour but on a lower plane. Is the new lower growth because I've inadvertently made this tort grow faster with richer foods, maybe less protein or maybe the protein used for keratin growth is a set growth rate and overfeeding makes the torts growth rate exceed the keratin growth rate creating the lower growth look because keratin is spread out thinner.
If this tort was fed groceries from day one instead of weeds would it just look smooth to us but with a thinner carapace and wider growth rings.
IMG_20161125_165027.jpg
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,312
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
@cdmay. I've just gone back through all my information on the 2016 hatchlings I have.
The one in the photo above was born on 16th may, it was kept in a 18x36" vivarium with the dark Adonis. Fed a strict diet as said above. I had a clutch of 9 that hatched. 5 on 13th Oct, these were added to the 18x36" viv. On 27th Oct all 7 were transferred to my new enclosure that is in the large tort house. On 31st Oct the last 4 out of the 9 eggs hatched, these were added straight to to new enclosure in the tort house.
I am wrong about the groceries, the above photo was taken in new enclosure on
25th nov. It wasn't until December that we got short on weeds. So why the wider growth ring, things that changed were, new enclosure, fruit and mushroom just got put in with greens for 11 hatchlings(so fruit intake could have gone up for individuals) or I'm worrying over nothing and because they are getting bigger the growth rings naturally get wider as they get bigger.
Here is today's photo of the one above. Rubbish photos again, I need to get a grip on this photography stuff.
Time will tell if this one carries on growing at the lower level. IMG_20170213_190306.jpg IMG_20170213_190347.jpg
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,312
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
#1 is from the 5 that hatched 13th Oct
#2 is from the 4 that hatched 31st Oct.
They seem to be all following the same growth pattern. One more thought for you, when they first hatch there must be a supply of protein from the egg sack. I wonder if what we are seeing here is the protein levels dropping from the original egg sack. I've not fed protein much, think I fed the 1st hatchling above 1 piece of catfood and 2 worms in about 8 months.
I can't help thinking that in the wild they would be hidden eating foliage,fungi and the odd slug or snail that's on the foliage.
Do you think they would see fruit at such a young age?
IMG_20170213_190549.jpg IMG_20170213_190801.jpg
 

Markw84

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
4,273
Location (City and/or State)
Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
Craig

I believe the amount of protein necessary to produce ample keratin for scute growth is negligible. They would simply stop growing if you ever reached that stage. I believe it is overall metabolic variations, not a just a lack of "normal" keratin production.

We cannot assume our tortoises are perfectly 100% optimal, 100% of the time. Just as we catch colds, and get illnesses, I believe tortoises can go through periods of growth differences as their metabolism adjusts to fighting off potential illness. Although not enough to develop into something we might see, it is still fighting off a start to an illness. They say the average person starts to catch a cold 5-6 times a year, and only 1 or 2 gets us ill enough to actually produce all the cold symptoms. But the body is spending resources fighting things off. A tortoise may have stayed out and got colder than normal, or basked and got hotter than normal, and adjusted by going into a self induced mini aestivation. Lots of things - stress, change, egg production, mating behaviors, etc, etc will have it's toll on metabolism.

Most of us who weigh regularly always seem to comment on how they go through spurts of faster, then sometimes slower growth. I think you are just seeing the results of those variances.
 

cdmay

Well-Known Member
10 Year Member!
Joined
Feb 1, 2008
Messages
1,919
Location (City and/or State)
Somewhere in Florida
#1 is from the 5 that hatched 13th Oct
#2 is from the 4 that hatched 31st Oct.
They seem to be all following the same growth pattern. One more thought for you, when they first hatch there must be a supply of protein from the egg sack. I wonder if what we are seeing here is the protein levels dropping from the original egg sack. I've not fed protein much, think I fed the 1st hatchling above 1 piece of catfood and 2 worms in about 8 months.
I can't help thinking that in the wild they would be hidden eating foliage,fungi and the odd slug or snail that's on the foliage.
Do you think they would see fruit at such a young age?
View attachment 199708 View attachment 199709

For a captive raised tortoise his shell looks quite nice.
Many of your questions probably can't be answered...not by me anyway, that's for sure!
Do neonate or very small red foot tortoises encounter 'fruit'? Probably, but it would likely be seasonal just as certain species of flowering trees produce a particular times of the year. See again that Moskovits study in northern Brazil.
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,312
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
Craig

I believe the amount of protein necessary to produce ample keratin for scute growth is negligible. They would simply stop growing if you ever reached that stage. I believe it is overall metabolic variations, not a just a lack of "normal" keratin production.

We cannot assume our tortoises are perfectly 100% optimal, 100% of the time. Just as we catch colds, and get illnesses, I believe tortoises can go through periods of growth differences as their metabolism adjusts to fighting off potential illness. Although not enough to develop into something we might see, it is still fighting off a start to an illness. They say the average person starts to catch a cold 5-6 times a year, and only 1 or 2 gets us ill enough to actually produce all the cold symptoms. But the body is spending resources fighting things off. A tortoise may have stayed out and got colder than normal, or basked and got hotter than normal, and adjusted by going into a self induced mini aestivation. Lots of things - stress, change, egg production, mating behaviors, etc, etc will have it's toll on metabolism.

Most of us who weigh regularly always seem to comment on how they go through spurts of faster, then sometimes slower growth. I think you are just seeing the results of those variances.
What I am seeing is a slightly different growth(it's lower) this could be the same as what we see when an adult is taken into captivity from the wild. The common is STRESS.
The one above that lived in the viv for 6 months was growing perfectly, then all of a sudden it was in a new environment with 9 extra roomates. It got stressed same as a wild caught would be for a while.
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,312
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
For a captive raised tortoise his shell looks quite nice.
Many of your questions probably can't be answered...not by me anyway, that's for sure!
Do neonate or very small red foot tortoises encounter 'fruit'? Probably, but it would likely be seasonal just as certain species of flowering trees produce a particular times of the year. See again that Moskovits study in northern Brazil.
Carl, I'm over the moon with how they look. I'm just being super critical of myself, trying to understand the finer details and why all of a sudden I'm seeing a slight difference. There is no way on earth its down to lack of humidity/hydration, also these have never had access to any direct heat source. So it has to be diet or stress I'm thinking.
 

Markw84

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
4,273
Location (City and/or State)
Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
What I am seeing is a slightly different growth(it's lower) this could be the same as what we see when an adult is taken into captivity from the wild. The common is STRESS.
The one above that lived in the viv for 6 months was growing perfectly, then all of a sudden it was in a new environment with 9 extra roomates. It got stressed same as a wild caught would be for a while.
I see that too with sulcatas I move outside full time - the spring they have reached 7-8"
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,312
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
There is logic in the fact when I moved this tort to its new enclosure, it was stressed, stopped eating for a while, the halt in growth becomes a visual for us.
I'm guessing wild torts undergo stress too, but if their growth is so slow any blips in constant growth would be less obvious, also the fact they are constantly wearing down the carapace as they pass through burrows and denser vegitation when bigger.
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,312
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
I see that too with sulcatas I move outside full time - the spring they have reached 7-8"
If all we are seeing is a halt in growth for what every the reason and your theory of how keratin grows is correct, this opens another door for questions.
My first one would be, in the harsh arid times for wild torts when rich foods are scarce the tort would automatically slow down in growth maybe even stop but also naturally be dryer so any new keratin doesn't expand with moisture. (This falls in with moister versus growth rate per natural conditions).
If we humans cause a major upset to a tort causing it to stop eating for a short period, but yet keep it humid the new keratin will still expand because of the moisture, forcing a drasting down movement in the bone structure. This is giving us the lower growth patterns. As the tort starts to eat/grow again it maintains the correct growth pattern but on a lower plane assuming we maintain correct conditions. I THINK.
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,312
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
This is another random photo I copied of the net. I'm guessing this one is a farm raised or a very good CB that changed hands in care.
You can see clearly at the front of the front vertebral scute how the change in growth took place. It's lower, but both levels of growth look near on perfect to me.
What's going on there.....

Does the bone structure step like the keratin layer, it must do IF keratin is a constant thickness.

Is the lower part(newest growth) a thinner layer of keratin?

Has the end of the original growth swelled because growth came to a standstill, then when growth commenced as normal it gives the appearance of 2 levels when infact we have a swollen area between 2 levels that are the same?
What ever it is I think this is what I'm seeing with my juvenile because I've moved it to a new enclosure with more tortoises. Personally I'm starting to think it's definitely because it was put into a new environment and stopped eating for a while.
Screenshot_2017-02-14-12-23-06~2.png
 

Kapidolo Farms

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Nov 7, 2012
Messages
5,079
Location (City and/or State)
South of Southern California, but not Mexico
Whether individuals are aware or not, the fussing over hair, like the fussing over feathers in birds, is that those keratin things demonstrate health. I don't believe tortoises have that awareness (maybe they do?) but feathers and hair most definitely indicate many things regarding health, stress, nutrition, and lifestyle.

So these same things indicate as much to us when we look at tortoises. The keratin on tortoises is a better record of the individual, than for animals with hair and nails, or feathers. The indication of personal history is still 'readable' with tortoises many seasons on, while feathers and nails and hair cycle off/shed by the individual.
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,312
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
For a captive raised tortoise his shell looks quite nice.
Many of your questions probably can't be answered...not by me anyway, that's for sure!
Do neonate or very small red foot tortoises encounter 'fruit'? Probably, but it would likely be seasonal just as certain species of flowering trees produce a particular times of the year. See again that Moskovits study in northern Brazil.
Which study are you talking about Carl, the one from 1985 you mentioned a while back. I could never get hold of the 300 page study.
 

Pearly

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jul 14, 2015
Messages
5,294
Location (City and/or State)
Central Texas, Austin area
Hey Craig, this is very interesting topic! I often wander why my Shellie's growth is so.... ridgy, almost bumpy! Tucker's much less so, but he is a whole inch and about a 1lb behind her... ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1487119856.719125.jpg i had to take images from different points to get relfect the "wrinkles and folds" that she has around those split and extra scutes. The regular scutes are just rigdy ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1487120163.450988.jpg that little funky extra scute is almost a pyramide-like. ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1487120266.591092.jpg , so you think she's being ms piggy and eating too much??? ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1487120328.657836.jpg her legs or neck are not fat ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1487120376.279166.jpg . And then there is Tucker, my sickly baby, he's been eating good but I'm still watching him closely ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1487120447.856711.jpg he's ridgy but not as bad as Shellie and he doesn't have those "pyramid" maybe bcs his scutes are where they are supposed be ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1487120611.833486.jpg my concern is that they are growing too fast/too much... or is there such thing? ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1487120761.735178.jpg see???!!!! Those ridges??!!! ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1487121260.856517.jpg her shell looks like if it had been fleshy and got pinched as to wrinkle that flesh, make few folds, and than let out but those folds/wrinkles are still there especially around those extra and split scutes. So Craig do you think I'm overfeeding? I've never really looked at cb RF growth chart to know what's normal/ok and what's not but maybe I should? You know as long as this is just a cosmetic thing I am ok with it, but if that "outside" issues indicates some possible internal problems, then i definitely need to rethink my husbandry especially diet. And I am all for learning more and new. Not to highjack your thread but i though it relevant and maybe good for me to learn on real life examples
 

Anyfoot

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
6,312
Location (City and/or State)
UK Sheffield
Hey Craig, this is very interesting topic! I often wander why my Shellie's growth is so.... ridgy, almost bumpy! Tucker's much less so, but he is a whole inch and about a 1lb behind her... View attachment 199819 i had to take images from different points to get relfect the "wrinkles and folds" that she has around those split and extra scutes. The regular scutes are just rigdy View attachment 199820 that little funky extra scute is almost a pyramide-like. View attachment 199821 , so you think she's being ms piggy and eating too much??? View attachment 199822 her legs or neck are not fat View attachment 199823 . And then there is Tucker, my sickly baby, he's been eating good but I'm still watching him closely View attachment 199824 he's ridgy but not as bad as Shellie and he doesn't have those "pyramid" maybe bcs his scutes are where they are supposed be View attachment 199825 my concern is that they are growing too fast/too much... or is there such thing? View attachment 199826 see???!!!! Those ridges??!!! View attachment 199828 her shell looks like if it had been fleshy and got pinched as to wrinkle that flesh, make few folds, and than let out but those folds/wrinkles are still there especially around those extra and split scutes. So Craig do you think I'm overfeeding? I've never really looked at cb RF growth chart to know what's normal/ok and what's not but maybe I should? You know as long as this is just a cosmetic thing I am ok with it, but if that "outside" issues indicates some possible internal problems, then i definitely need to rethink my husbandry especially diet. And I am all for learning more and new. Not to highjack your thread but i though it relevant and maybe good for me to learn on real life examples
You have one perfect tort and one very near perfect tort. You feed them a mixed diet, soak them relentlessly, I believe you coconut them too, they lived in the same set up and endured the exact same care as far as you are aware. But yet you still see a difference.
What is or has been different is what we need to ask?
The obvious ones are....
One is a Brazilian and one is a northern.

What amount of growth was already on them when you got them both?

Habits within the enclosure (where they sleep, under a heat source in a moist hide etc. ( Did one prefer to dry out under the heat source).

Amount and type of food they were eating.

Stress levels.

As for feeding, I let mine eat as much weeds/greens as they want and restrict fruit and mushroom and there is consistent growth, well right to the point when I moved the one I posted above.

The one thing with feeding a mixed pile of food everyday is, one of yours in theory could be picking out all the strawberry every day for example and the other is left with mostly weeds.
Then I think to myself, if let's say too much fruit effects the carapace and we restrict that (just like I am) because we THINK that is a factor. What is restricting them in the wild?
If I have to restrict a food then surely it shouldn't be eating it in the first place?
Are you feeding too much, I don't know yet.
 

cdmay

Well-Known Member
10 Year Member!
Joined
Feb 1, 2008
Messages
1,919
Location (City and/or State)
Somewhere in Florida
Hey Craig, this is very interesting topic! I often wander why my Shellie's growth is so.... ridgy, almost bumpy! Tucker's much less so, but he is a whole inch and about a 1lb behind her... View attachment 199819 i had to take images from different points to get relfect the "wrinkles and folds" that she has around those split and extra scutes. The regular scutes are just rigdy View attachment 199820 that little funky extra scute is almost a pyramide-like. View attachment 199821 , so you think she's being ms piggy and eating too much??? View attachment 199822 her legs or neck are not fat View attachment 199823 . And then there is Tucker, my sickly baby, he's been eating good but I'm still watching him closely View attachment 199824 he's ridgy but not as bad as Shellie and he doesn't have those "pyramid" maybe bcs his scutes are where they are supposed be View attachment 199825 my concern is that they are growing too fast/too much... or is there such thing? View attachment 199826 see???!!!! Those ridges??!!! View attachment 199828 her shell looks like if it had been fleshy and got pinched as to wrinkle that flesh, make few folds, and than let out but those folds/wrinkles are still there especially around those extra and split scutes. So Craig do you think I'm overfeeding? I've never really looked at cb RF growth chart to know what's normal/ok and what's not but maybe I should? You know as long as this is just a cosmetic thing I am ok with it, but if that "outside" issues indicates some possible internal problems, then i definitely need to rethink my husbandry especially diet. And I am all for learning more and new. Not to highjack your thread but i though it relevant and maybe good for me to learn on real life examples
These two look about as fine as one can get in captivity. Their shells appear perfect.
Remember, these are not burrowing, or plowing through vegetation and thus every little ridge of growth is being retained.
 
Top