Thinking out loud: 'Nutritional wisdom'

Status
Not open for further replies.

Madkins007

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Joined
Feb 15, 2008
Messages
5,393
Location (City and/or State)
Nebraska
1. I am posting this in Debatables so no one thinks it is care recommendations, and so I can brainstorm and discuss things with you guys.

2. I'm researching a phenomena called 'Improper Diet Cascade' in birds, but it touches on things we see in tortoises so closely it is almost spooky. The problem is that it is one of those big, multi-system issues that are hard to research even in animals with shorter generations and life-spans.

In this part of my research puzzle, I am looking at something called 'nutritional wisdom'- the ability of an animal to make intelligent food selections. The article said that birds generally exhibit poor nutritional wisdom, gorging on foods that are unhealthy to the point of making themselves ill.

Birds theoretically are advanced reptiles, so it is not surprising that tortoises also believed to exhibit poor nutritional wisdom- eating feces or substrate is a possible example of that.

So, the question is- when we see reports of tortoises gorging on carcasses or fruit falls or whatever, is it a good thing for them or poor nutritional wisdom? Do we take events like this into diet planning?
 

terryo

Well-Known Member
10 Year Member!
Joined
Aug 24, 2007
Messages
8,972
Location (City and/or State)
Staten Island, New York
So you are saying that if a tort is sitting under a fig tree (for example) and he eats until there aren't any figs left...might take days...then he is exhibiting poor nutritional wisdom? Or...if he finds a dead rotting carcass and stays there until he has finished the whole carcass...The same would apply to a tort if he found a poisonous plant and ate that. Is this what you mean? I knew an old lady who kept Redfoot and Boxies in her yard together for over 20 years. She had every kind of plant in that yard, some that I now know were poisonous, but in all those years she never had a sick tortoise or box turtle, so I know they didn't eat anything that would get them sick....meaning that they showed good nutritional wisdom. After I took Pio in for the Winter I was cleaning his outdoor garden, and I noticed that there was a morning glory vine growing, and it was pretty big. He never touched it. Is this what you're talking about?
 

jackrat

Active Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2010
Messages
2,321
Location (City and/or State)
Hamburg,AR
Just judging the general condition of tortoises in the wild versus the general condition of humans,I'd have to say they have us beat in the area of knowing what's best.LOL Occasional gorges and opportunistic finds like carcasses have been a part of their life cycle far longer than there have been human beings on earth.I'm not passing judgement on the wisdom of their nutritional choices.Just my humble opinion.
 

Becki

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2010
Messages
247
Location (City and/or State)
Albuquerque
Can it be poor nutritional wisdom coupled with the survival instinct?
 

Balboa

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Oct 7, 2010
Messages
792
Location (City and/or State)
PNW
Right now I'm thinking of a multi-level approach Mark.
A-Grade Drive.... Rare Finds provide an irresistable gluttony drive. Fresh meat would be such a thing. Never know when it will be available again. Much like humans gorging on sweets.

B-Grade Drive.... Common foods, less rich, provide an ample opportunity while grazing to be picky and make up for last weeks gorge on figs, carcass whatever. If they can tell exactly what they need and lack, if provided sufficient opportunity they may correct on their own.

I left out the obvious caveat.... If, as can be the case in captivity, the rare is no longer rare, they may not be able to over-come that gorge drive.
 

Turtulas-Len

Well-Known Member
10 Year Member!
Joined
Aug 3, 2010
Messages
4,546
Location (City and/or State)
Southern Md - Northern Neck Va
Mankind has confused tortoise's and other wildlife throughout the world by changing the food that is available to them not only in captivity but also in the wild.There was a time before people started moving plants for harvest from one continent to another that it basically was set up this way.--(This is the way I understand it, but I may be wrong) Alocasia type plants were found in Asia, Succulent type plants were from Africa and the Mediterranean area, Cactus were in the America's, But now each type is found worldwide.As little as 500 years ago a Sulcata or Leopard tortoise may have never seen a cactus pad, but now it is a main part of it's diet in captivity. So I feel to find the actual natural diet of a certain tortoise type you will have to study the plant life in it's natural environment before man changed it. 500 years in evolution time is so short it's hard to count.This could be the main reason for all the problems we have keeping them smooth and healthy. What do you think?
 

Madkins007

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Joined
Feb 15, 2008
Messages
5,393
Location (City and/or State)
Nebraska
Meat is the more obvious example of the idea. While Red-foots can certainly digest meat, their whole digestive system is designed to process things slowly and break down plant cell walls.

Animal or red meat is rarely found in Red-foot scat- it is not a normal food item, and when the do eat meat, it is usually in the form of termites and butterflies. In one of Moskovits' studies, she only found signs of animal meat in ONE dropping.

So, when they sit and gorge on it, are they acting in their own long-term best interest? Or is this like us gorging on candy or ice cream?

There is no reason to assume that bad side effects would be obvious, but remember that A.) wild animals rarely die of old age, and B.) captive tortoises, as best we can tell, often do not live as long as wild ones.

It is not hard to think of the probably negative effects of a belly-full of meat, especially carrion. High cholesterol, blood pressure, liver and kidney issues, changed blood chemistry, changed intestinal flora, rapid growth and all the changes that not only brings on, but the changed that triggered it.

Just eating one hamburger for a human is supposed to make system-wide changes for more than a day- why wouldn't eating their body wieght in meat make a lot of changes? None of this would kill a tortoise, most of it would not even be visible-but is any of it healthy?



Now, Terry O's examples of poisonous (to humans) plants MAY be 'dumb' if the plants are harmful to a reasonable extent and/or low in useful nutrients- but I suspect that a lot of plants we consider unsafe or unsuitable are actually more tortoise-friendly than we know, so we really cannot use these as proof either way.



Figs are tougher to call. They are a nice little punch of nutrition- one of the few fruits common in the US with a good Ca: P, etc. But, is it a sign of nutritional wisdom to pig out on them? Figs process fairly quickly, cause loose bowels, contain a lot of carbs and calories, etc. A large meal of them would almost certainly change blood chemistry and hormone levels, glucose production, and more. By the time the torts get to them, they are also often over-ripe, fermenting, etc. Is this basically a beer party for tortoises?




As far as nutritional wisdom goes, Red-foots, etc. do demonstrate frequent poor choices. How many times have we seen comments that they skip the healthy stuff, or that some foods are bad but addictive? This is low nutritional wisdom. (However, eating things like sand for grit, or some types of feces for bacterial loads is not a bad sign.)

Humans are so-so. We are easily addicted to fat, sugar, and salt. Cut these (and processed foods) down, and when we get past the addiction, we actually usually show decent nutritional wisdom. The article that started this thought process said birds are 'dumb', and based on the criteria, I would have to believe that domestic dogs are 'dumb', but cats are 'smarter'.



So, to phrase it a different way- although it is common wild behavior, is it smart or healthy behavior?
 

jackrat

Active Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2010
Messages
2,321
Location (City and/or State)
Hamburg,AR
Mark,no matter what you keep telling yourself,as long as WE don't screw up the earth any worse,they will probably outlive us all.LOL
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
57,960
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
My first question upon reading the OP is: Are we talking about wild torts in the wild, or captives? Same question with the birds. These are two TOTALLY different discussions.

I can tell you that my torts seem to balance their diets very well all on their own, even in a totally artificial environment. They will chow down on the occasion pumpkin (or something similar) and then leave it and go munch on weeds or grass. 20 minutes later, they will walk right past the pumpkin and go eat bermuda hay. 20 minutes after that, they will be on their hillside grazing on fresh grasses and weeds. This is a little frustrating since I feed them up when the rains come to try to give the "good" stuff a chance to grow. Doesn't usually work as they prefer the weeds and grass to the store bought stuff I try to offer.

I can also tell you that, given the choice, most captive parrots will quickly eat themselves into malnutrition. I've seen that one lots of times. Remember the old seed diets?
 

Edna

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2010
Messages
1,536
Location (City and/or State)
Rawlins, Wyoming
Maybe nutritional wisdom is less critical in torts, given that they are built to live until something kills them.
My pair of ringneck doves are interesting, from the standpoint of diet. I know that before they came to me they were fed cracked corn almost exclusively. They were in poor feather when I got them, did a complete molt and after just 4 weeks on a varied seed diet were beautiful again. I buy two different wild bird mixes and fill their dish according to what they are preferring at the time. They eat all the sunflower and safflower seeds they are given. For the first month they also ate all the white millet from their mix, leaving the red milo. In the last few weeks there have been a couple of times when they ate all the milo and left the millet. Wise or not, they are doing some nutritional balancing and it is resulting in apparent good health.
 

Madkins007

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Joined
Feb 15, 2008
Messages
5,393
Location (City and/or State)
Nebraska
jackrat said:
Mark,no matter what you keep telling yourself,as long as WE don't screw up the earth any worse,they will probably outlive us all.LOL

I'm not quite sure what you mean by this, but if you mean torts will outlive humans, I would not bet on it. There are not a lot of wild populations that are not in trouble in some way and a lot are actively endangered.

Of course, if you mean we will manage to kill ourselves off first, that is a possibility.

Tom said:
My first question upon reading the OP is: Are we talking about wild torts in the wild, or captives? Same question with the birds. These are two TOTALLY different discussions.

I can tell you that my torts seem to balance their diets very well all on their own, even in a totally artificial environment. They will chow down on the occasion pumpkin (or something similar) and then leave it and go munch on weeds or grass. 20 minutes later, they will walk right past the pumpkin and go eat bermuda hay. 20 minutes after that, they will be on their hillside grazing on fresh grasses and weeds. This is a little frustrating since I feed them up when the rains come to try to give the "good" stuff a chance to grow. Doesn't usually work as they prefer the weeds and grass to the store bought stuff I try to offer.

I can also tell you that, given the choice, most captive parrots will quickly eat themselves into malnutrition. I've seen that one lots of times. Remember the old seed diets?

I understand where you are coming from, but let's look at the pyramiding issue. If Andy H. is right at all, our young'uns are making bad dietary choices- possibly because we are forcing it on them- that lead to spongy bone and MBD.
 

Kristina

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2008
Messages
5,383
Location (City and/or State)
Cadillac, Michigan
If tortoises in captivity are making bad nutritional choices, it is absolutely because we are forcing them into it. I have said this so many times - humans have been on earth for around 3 million years. Tortoises - TWENTY THREE MILLION. If they were nutritionally "dumb," they would have died out 20 million years ago.

My personal take on the spongy bone issue is that it is a direct result of over feeding at a young age. The babies that we raise are being forced to grow too fast, and it is evidencing itself in poorly developed, "stretched" bone.

Another thing that people do not do is supplement enough calcium. Just about every place that tortoises come from in the wild has extremely calcium rich soil. They eat pebbles, dirt, bones, etc. in the wild to supplement their own calcium. A lack of calcium in captivity in itself will cause poor bone density.
 

jackrat

Active Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2010
Messages
2,321
Location (City and/or State)
Hamburg,AR
kyryah said:
If tortoises in captivity are making bad nutritional choices, it is absolutely because we are forcing them into it. I have said this so many times - humans have been on earth for around 3 million years. Tortoises - TWENTY THREE MILLION. If they were nutritionally "dumb," they would have died out 20 million years ago.
You stated very eloquently what I was trying to convey.I agree 100% with this. You just can't label a wild creature's diet "nutritionally dumb".It just is what it is,no matter what the creature or location.
 

Balboa

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Oct 7, 2010
Messages
792
Location (City and/or State)
PNW
jackrat said:
(snip)
You just can't label a wild creature's diet "nutritionally dumb".It just is what it is,no matter what the creature or location.

I think the idea is not that the natural diet is dumb. Its whether or not the animal makes an active effort to adjust its diet to meet nutritional needs, that reflects the "dumb" vs "smart" part.

A wild animal that is locked into a diet by its niche and evolutionally adjusted to it, is essentially practicing "nutritional dumbness". If the foodsource it relies on dies out, they may be at a loss as to how to make up the nutritional difference of a different diet, and will thus die out themselves.

Tortoises appear to show greater adaptability to diet, they can smell what they need or something to that effect. That's "nutritional smartness". Apparently they will do what looks to be "dumb" things despite that ability, much like humans.

Why Birds would be so incapable of "nutritional smartness" ? Maybe they are behaviorly/environmentally locked to a menu, just more complex than highly specialized niche creatures. Once deprived of that 100% naturals "smart" diet, they are "dumb" in not knowing how to compensate.
 

Madkins007

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Joined
Feb 15, 2008
Messages
5,393
Location (City and/or State)
Nebraska
OK, clearly I am not communicating the concept well.

Wild elephants eat fermented fruit until they are literally drunk and get physically ill over it. This is an example of poor nutritional wisdom.

Poor nutritional wisdom is not the same thing as eating foods that will kill you- it basically just means letting your taste buds rule instead of what your body needs.

If any animal exhibited poor nutritional wisdom the way some people here are reading it (possibly because I have not successfully conveyed the definition), then that species would have been gone in a couple generations, much less millennia.

..................................

And if you are going to mock me with archeology, you may want to think about the fact that you are comparing a genus age (tortoises, 23 million) with a species age (human, 3 million).

Comparing species to species, Red-foots/Yellow-foots are estimated at 2.6-3.4 million years ago. If we look at genera, primates have been around 55-58 million years. (Sources- Wikipedia and Pritchard's "Turtles of Venezuela")
 

Terry Allan Hall

Active Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2010
Messages
4,009
Location (City and/or State)
The Republic O' Tejas
Len said:
Mankind has confused tortoise's and other wildlife throughout the world by changing the food that is available to them not only in captivity but also in the wild.There was a time before people started moving plants for harvest from one continent to another that it basically was set up this way.--(This is the way I understand it, but I may be wrong) Alocasia type plants were found in Asia, Succulent type plants were from Africa and the Mediterranean area, Cactus were in the America's, But now each type is found worldwide.As little as 500 years ago a Sulcata or Leopard tortoise may have never seen a cactus pad, but now it is a main part of it's diet in captivity. So I feel to find the actual natural diet of a certain tortoise type you will have to study the plant life in it's natural environment before man changed it. 500 years in evolution time is so short it's hard to count.This could be the main reason for all the problems we have keeping them smooth and healthy. What do you think?

That's an interesting thought! :cool:
 

Kristina

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2008
Messages
5,383
Location (City and/or State)
Cadillac, Michigan
Madkins007 said:
And if you are going to mock me with archeology

I was not "mocking" anyone, and never would. I am sorry that you would take me stating my opinion that way.
 

Madkins007

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Joined
Feb 15, 2008
Messages
5,393
Location (City and/or State)
Nebraska
kyryah said:
Madkins007 said:
And if you are going to mock me with archeology

I was not "mocking" anyone, and never would. I am sorry that you would take me stating my opinion that way.

I admit I was a bit irked by the way the comments were going, and I see in hindsight that I made a bad choice of phrases and comments there.

Please accept my apologies, too.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

New Posts

Top