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Pyramiding is due to excess Heat, not lack of Humidity?

Discussion in 'Advanced Tortoise Topics' started by AMMG, Mar 9, 2016.

  1. Will

    Will Well-Known Member

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    Thanks much to AMMG for bringing this here to ruminate over. I just heard of this study recently, and had not yet sourced it. It makes me wonder if the whole point of this kind of study is to create dialogue (here and elsewhere) to push the overall inquiry of pyramiding and tortoise husbandry forward.

    There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that 'belly' heat is not so desirable, but it is difficult to tease apart this heating method from other potentially poor husbandry practices or even if moderate belly heat is okay, versus heat that is not moderated with a thermostat.

    I often had hoped when I was at the zoos I worked at to sort some of these kinds of things out and get the info out there so the mighty number of private breeders could get a unequivocal positive benefit from the zoo community, not hand picked buddies here and there. It seems the Behler Center, The TSA facility (as two examples) and elsewhere need to do this more controlled testing to move the whole of the idea of 'assurance colonies' forward, and then freely share the sorted out practice. There is risk of poor study quality resulting in a cohort of bad husbandry effort by the private breeders, or private breeders poorly implementing the message of the study.

    On the other hand the whole idea of UV lighting came out of a zoo collection and was widely shared and now is a big part of what indoor keepers rely on for husbandry. Although the CFL seemed to be a miss-step.

    Many great successes out there with the semi-private collections or amalgamation of collections with breeding expensive animals and showing them off as a discrete sales platform. Good job. If you have an interest in the preservation of the species, a bit of the "how I did this would be good".

    To that end many folks here are TFO are exemplary, thank you. I'll give @Tom the TFO Citizen Scientists award for sharing openly what he does.
    keepergale and Dizisdalife like this.
  2. TurtleBug

    TurtleBug Member 5 Year Member

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    No matter what the flaws of this study are, it's still interesting to read. AMMG, thank you for posting it.

    In the last few years, there's been a lot of talk about artificial OVERHEAD heat sources drying up / burning the carapace and contributing to / causing pyramiding.

    In this study the night heat was provided by bottom heat mats, not with overhead heat. So there was no direct heat to the top of the carapace, yet the extra heat caused them to pyramid more (and, of couse, to grow faster since the metabolism was revved up.)

    ..

    Ps. I couldn't access the full text study at the original link, but I found it here
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/15575063
    Scroll down to the article and open the pdf.
  3. Will

    Will Well-Known Member

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    That's the dealio about the discussion. The correlation between "cause Bottom Heat", and "effect Pyramiding" is NOT established in this study. It is at best inferred. There were too many other variables not accounted for, the biggy is food intake both in quantity and choice. This study is also just as strong an indication of growth rate and pyramiding as it is heat source and pyramiding. These factors are not well sorted out. It seems to me (my guess) the heat overnight allowed more food to be digested faster - resulting in faster growth in an environment without the 'best' level of humidity to support that faster growth. Digestive enzymes work better at different temperatures. The one better still for the experiment would have been to monitor the food intake, and then actually do an analysis on the feces to see if there was some significant difference in nutrients utilized between the two groups.

    If you want to say 'well what about in nature'. Consider this. In a series of years with more abundant food and faster growth, that more abundant food came with more rain, more vegetative overgrowth so more humid hides at slightly warmer temps to support all that vegetative growth and resulting tortoise growth.

    The overhead heat source that has been teased apart are the fraction of heat lamps (small parts of the IR range) that are in nature (normally) filtered out by atmospheric water, and those fractions NOT being filtered out in an enclosure. When you stop to think about it is a very rational consideration. That is the very fractions of the IR filtered by water (in the atmosphere) are reaching the shell and damaging (evaporating) the water right out of the shell (in an enclosure). So that is why a few folks have moved away from IR lamps. I have gone much more to indirect heat from mats. They still produce some of those undesirable parts of the IR, but much much less than IR lamps.
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  4. domalle

    domalle Active Member TFO Supporter 5 Year Member

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    Even accounting for alleged deficiencies and all too easy armchair critique,
    this seems a well-designed and carefully constructed study.
    Introduction of a substrate, and of what kind, would have added other levels of variable to consider
    and contributed to further possible pollution of results.
    Drops in temperature at night are just one more factor to consider.
    Multiple factors contribute to pyramiding. Humidity and lubrication are prominent ones.
    So are avoidance of overfeeding and accelerated growth.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2016
  5. TurtleBug

    TurtleBug Member 5 Year Member

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    Ok, Will, the word "caused" was not the best choice. I would be happy to use "possibly", "seemed", "maybe", "could have", "seemingly", etc. etc. :) :) :) My point was more about the type of heat source used.
  6. Will

    Will Well-Known Member

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    Over feeding, which in the wild, is over eating is a primary response to an abundance of food. In the wild this is balanced with other factors and likely contributes to some types of selection. In the short term that selection is which species lives where, and in the long term it is the collection of alleles that change the species. Some would argue that collection of alleles can also have a short term result.

    The very nature of my thesis for tortoise ecology (a graduate degree thesis not a thought experiment) was regarding neutral theory/niche competition and resource abundance for tortoises that live in mixed species populations. These are real things that happen in the wild with tortoises. How do tortoises end up in mixed species communities through high and low resource abundance? Those that overeat, avoid depredation (risk of exposure while out eating the over-abundance), and lay more eggs will fill niche space better than those that don't overeat and produce fewer eggs. This is constrained by cover and and quality egg sites and timing and occurrence of neonate emergence and survival.

    So overeating and use of resources is how in some populations one species may, over a long time, out-compete other species in localized space/time.

    It is overfeeding if it is not balanced feeding. Balance is the types/qualities of the food, or the supporting husbandry for it. The study shows a lack of balance between food resources/quality and supporting husbandry. The pyramiding is the result of unsupported abundance of and otherwise limiting resource "food". Higher food abundance can work if a corresponding suite of other resources are there to support it.

    The number of experiments demonstrating this simple relationship among resources for growing things is huge. Many older high-school biology labs would use algae, N,P and K in mason jars on a shelf near a window to demonstrate this.

    There is value in the experiment that AMMG posted. I don't find that value in a demonstration of causal effect of bottom heat to pyramiding.

    Markw84 and Tom like this.
  7. domalle

    domalle Active Member TFO Supporter 5 Year Member

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  8. domalle

    domalle Active Member TFO Supporter 5 Year Member

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    My comments were partly a response to what I interpreted as angry and heated rejection to the contribution of a new member
    and the discouraging effect of such reactions to the further participation of newcomers to the forum.

    I did not mean to impugn your standing as a positive and professional contributor through an admittedly poor choice of phrasing.

    My apologies. You are only guilty of reliably providing measured and always balanced input.

    By 'lubrication' I was referring to the positive effects of humidity on the physiology of shell growth and formation.
  9. Will

    Will Well-Known Member

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    You are right on that - water is the universal lubricant. I have begun to think it your be interesting to somehow measure the stuff on the shells of tortoises in regards to IR influence. It is my understanding that the sun's role in calcium/D3 is on the skin, so the shell's role for that may or may not be vital. Several people have seen tortoises throwing soil on their own shell with back sweeping motions of the front legs, and at least some vegetable oil may accumulate on the shell of species that spend time hunkered under living or dead plants. Both of these activities may reduce the desiccation effect of the sun while still allowing the tortoise to get heat. I sunscreen of sorts. If only to get a job doing this kind of research instead of oncology with rodents. What to do.

    Fun thread, I hope I did not discourage any interest. I'm glad you carried the thread as you have.
  10. donmacho

    donmacho Member

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    Can you see her little pyramid?
    She pyramided only when she was kept in dry substrate( dry pellet/dry hay).

    85 Temprature(day/night) 50ish humidity for 5years.

    http://zarata.blog66.fc2.com/
    It is Japanese blog but you can still see the pics maybe.

    I will keep my little one high humidity and warm night.(I like Tom's method):)

    Attached Files:

  11. donmacho

    donmacho Member

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    RHP also damage skin by alot btw.
    I learn it from my frogs.

    if your tortoise like to stay outside of hide box and takes direct heat from the panel for long time per day.
    it damage the shell I think.
    Cowboy_Ken likes this.
  12. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 5 Year Member Platinum Supporter

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    This is not a good example picture. They should have used the same species of tortoise for both sides. The testudos on the left don't pyramid as readily as the sulcatas and leopards do.
  13. WithLisa

    WithLisa Well-Known Member

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    Did you quote the wrong picture? I can't see any testudos.
    "Representative African leopard tortoises (top) and spurred tortoises (bottom) from control (left) and treatment (right) groups at the completion of the experiment."
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  14. mark1

    mark1 Well-Known Member

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    it's been a long time since i raised any tortoises , and they were red foots , and they did show some pyramiding . i attributed it to diet and growth , but i didn't know much about them ...... i did raise some elongateds , and they didn't pyramid .......

    i am pretty sure one of the larger remaining populations of wild sulcatas is in southwest niger in and around parc du w ? in this area the weather and climate information is available for a few places like la tapoa , and diney ..... if we had those kind of precip numbers in ohio we'd be in a constant state of water deficit/drought , at least the monthly weather averages i looked at ..... honestly their humidity averages also make ohio look like a swamp ....

    a tortoise you see pyramided all the time are radiated tortoises , i read one time they find wild radiated tortoises that are pyramided ... those individuals are said to be ones that are known to be feeding on some kind of high calorie , high sugar fruit artificially introduced to madagascar ..... which would lead one , at least me , to believe diet does play some part in it ...... i don't doubt humidity and temp also play a part .....i do realize within any enviroment there are micro-climates , and often the wildlife that survives are the ones who find these micro-climates ........ i think good anecdotal evidence often times makes a lot more sense than some of those "scientific" conclusions ..... not that there aren't good studies , but there are some blatantly ridiculous ones too .... jmo
  15. Gillian Moore

    Gillian Moore Well-Known Member

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    An interesting subject. Thanks for sharing.
  16. BrianWI

    BrianWI Well-Known Member

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    I kind of look at it right now as humidity is the cure for other variables that cause pyramiding. So, for captive raised tortoises, this becomes the best way to do it. Proven. Perhaps there are other ways of doing it (lower heat, less food, etc.). But since I have one pet tortoise and not a gaggle of them to experiment on, I will use the wet method of raising her knowing it is the best thing I can do with the lowest risk of pyramiding.

    The study in this post was really poorly designed. I wouldn't give it much value. Too many uncontrolled variables to make a reliable conclusion.
  17. mctlong

    mctlong Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    Fascinating article! I would love to have seen them measure the surface humidity rather than the approx. 3cm above surface humidity. I suspect that heating pad is drying out the soil at night and hatchlings don't sleep 3cm above the surface.
  18. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Its been four months now since I first read this study. Seeing it again brings me to post my take on this...

    I have come to believe through all my trial and error, all the things I read and study, all the experiments done - heat, no heat, night heat, no night heat, fast growth, slow growth, higher protein, more calcium, better UVB, on, and on, and on - all to me only fit one basic take on this. I can't imagine a variable that hasn't been tried, yet all do fit one conclusion. Pyramiding is seen when you have high metabolism triggered WITHOUT humidity. If you give the tortoise higher heat and more food, without humidity, you will get Pyramiding.

    If I think about the tortoise in its natural environment, they ENDURE periods of food scarcity, and hot, dry weather. They basically stop growing and estivate during these periods to survive - waiting for the time to thrive. When the monsoons come, they have ample food with the rains and humidity. They grow in those conditions. They don't grow in food-scarce, dry conditions. It's really logical - food is available when it is wetter allowing the food to grow. So warm + humid = grow time. In dry times, the food dries up, and tortoises stop growing. It's when we create an artificial condition they would never see naturally in their home environments that we see pyramiding. We provide ample food and heat & UVB in DRY conditions. We get their metabolism going, yet without one key ingredient - proper hydration. So they grow, but don't grow naturally.

    Sulcatas seem to follow this patter the most strictly. It seems where they come from, when it dries up, there is no water available, nor food, so they go in a real slow or no growth mode in those dry times. If you look at leopards and stars, some do get pyramided in the wild. But they also come from areas where it may end up a dry year, but water sources may linger longer into dry periods, and I believe you would see tortoises especially growing their first few years through abnormally dry years - actually finding food and growing in dry conditions - and pyramiding.

    3 1/2 months ago now I got a group of Burmese Stars from the Behler Center. Their philosophy is to purposely slow grow their Star tortoises a bit along the belief that fast growth would lead to more pyramiding. I got them and they were pretty significantly pyramided and quite small for their age. So despite purposeful slow growth in conditions meant to more mimic a natural environment temperature wise - They pyramided. The humidity in their enclosures was always quite low. They do keep other species in greenhouses with controlled humidity, but the Burmese are kept drier. The average weight of the goup when they arrived was 454.2 grams despite being just over 5 years old. I have since convinced them the monsoon season has finally arrived, with a closed chamber I posted my build in that was a basic copy of @Tom 's chambers. So in 3 1/2 months the group had now averaged adding 301.8 grams! So the average for the group was going from 454 g (in five years) to 756 g in 3 1/2 more months. So, I grew them too fast and they will surely pyramid after 5 years of a set growth pattern - right? NO! All the new growth is coming in flat. Here's a picture I just went out to take of the growth pattern you can see in one of them...

    IMG_3417.JPG


    For me this continues to confirm that fast growth has nothing to do with pyramiding. This study this thread is about says high heat may cause pyramiding. While actually, my closed chamber is in my second garage that the past several weeks has been close to 93 dropping to 80 at night. The chamber constantly struggled to stay in the low 90's as I had to put the basking lights on a separate thermostat to turn off at 90 to avoid overheating. Their nighttime temps averaged 85. Despite this higher heat, faster growth, AND 5 years of a pyramiding growth pattern in a drier environment - I saw immediate change in growth pattern and what looks to be a total stop to the pyramiding.

    For me - I'm still convinced more than ever, if they grow - it must be humid!
  19. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    No surpirse Mark, but I agree completely and I've observed exactly what you have starting back in 2008 with my Daisy girl, and continuing through today.

    This study proved what we have been saying all along, but in another way. "Pyramiding is caused by growth in conditions that are too dry." No growth = No pyramiding. If conditions are too dry, they will pyramid no matter how slow they grow. Slow growth in dry conditions = slow pyramiding. Fast growth in dry conditions = fast pyramiding.

    One look at @DeanS results and the whole "fast growth is bad" debate is totally blown out of the water.
  20. mark1

    mark1 Well-Known Member

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    i think that is the best conclusion i've seen , it would satisfy any argument i've seen ......... it's similar to what this Weisener and Iben guy were looking for , except when they start talking about dietary calcium , phosphorus and ossification , i personally don't see a connection ..... http://africantortoise.com/_sulcatadiet2.pdf
    don't know about the type of keratin a tortoise shell is made of , but the composition of keratin in horns is known to be affected by humidity , i would assume possibly the keratin in a tortoise shell is also , and that very well may be related to pyramiding ..... your conclusion would also answer why the introduction of an artificial food source in madagascar would lead to seeing pyramided wild radiated tortoises ......
Similar Threads: Pyramiding excess
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Advanced Tortoise Topics Pyramiding in star tortoises, effects of humidity & lighting Aug 25, 2015
Advanced Tortoise Topics What is the physiology behind pyramiding? Nov 22, 2013

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