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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. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Do you know what actually is happening with the affected horn growth you refer to? It seems to me the dryness may be causing the keratin to curl down at the edge as it grows causing each successive growth ring to be lower. Doesn't seem like pyramiding is actually upward growth of a pyramid but downward growth in between - based on measurements of overall shell height vs length.
  2. mark1

    mark1 Well-Known Member

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  3. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 5 Year Member Platinum Supporter

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  4. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    NOW THAT'S INTERESTING AND SHOWS CAUSE FOR PYRAMIDING!!!

    According to that study, keratin, while forming, if exposed to dry conditions will become more stiff and resistant to additional swelling if later exposed to water, while hydrated keratin will swell more resulting in a thicker layer.

    I just seems to me all this mystery about pyramiding causes could be something simple. What would fit all scenarios is that the keratin as it fills in over new growth areas, will stiffen, and become resistant to filling in in a thicker layer above, yet add additional keratin below. That would cause downward growth with successive layer. As the new bone growth beneath is much more pliable, it would follow this growth pattern. However when kept in a moist environment, the keratin retains it ability to swell and add volume to the new scute in a more even, top to bottom, profile.

    Everything would fit this... extremely slow growth would not pyramid and the keratin layer is barely filling in over new bone and this effect does not have a chance to happen. However, whenever there is faster growth, the larger new bone area we all see as those white lines in many species, will require faster keratin growth as well to follow. If in a dry environment, this effect will then cause the keratin to push the bone downward as the top layer of keratin becomes stiffer much faster than the bottom of the keratin.

    Every scenario we have seen of pyramiding vs no pyramiding, including this study, exactly fits this proposed cause.

    Thoughts? @Tom @deadheadvet anyone?
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  5. deadheadvet

    deadheadvet Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Temperature may be a secondary factor in relation to growth. In drier environment, temp is constant and the air will be drier. Hence growth may be affected. A moister environment may help shell growth.Too wet an environment is an issue in itself. I am also convinced that genetics play a role in shell growth. Certain blood line seem to display more bumping. Me personally, I think the whole pyramid thing is so overkilled. The majority of the animals in question are perfectly healthy other then some bumping. Big deal! If the animal is unhealthy, there are so many other issues that need to be addressed.
    All this talk about stopping pyramiding is not anything I will spend a lot of time on. All my animals are unrelated. All living in the same environment. Some are perfectly smooth, and some have bumping. Do i care, hell no. I worry about their general health.
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  6. BrianWI

    BrianWI Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Mark,

    Is your hypothesis that the shell need moisture to grow properly in the up and out direction? That without the moisture, it may stiffen too quick, causing the growth to pyramid? Not trying to put words in your mouth, trying to understand myself and that sounds plausible.
  7. deadheadvet

    deadheadvet Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I do not have a definite on cause as it is a multifactorial discussion. Either way, if the tortoise is healthy and eating well, I do not consider it a serious issue. Now cosmetically sometimes there is definite misshape of the plastron and would question the health of the animal. There was a recent discussion about a pair of Rads raised in Fl with significant shell deformity. Supposedly under ideal conditions but managed to be severely misshapen.
  8. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Basically, yes. But I'm proposing an actual CAUSE.

    @Tom showed so well in his experiments that growth in a very humid environment resulted in virtually no pyramiding, However, we still don't know what CAUSES that. @deadheadvet mentions above his belief that temperature is a factor that drier air is a more stable temperature. Yet I personally have grown dozens of tortoises in very controlled stable temperature environments, and only when humidity was increased, and still using the exact temperatures as before, did I see a dramatic decrease in Pyramiding. For decades fast growth was also stated as a factor. Yet again I personally tired that, and did different diet experiments, yet only now see consistent and repeatable results of no pyramiding if humid - despite very fast growth, and different diets.

    deadheadvet's assertion that pyramiding obsession is way too extreme has merit. The overall health is of chief concern. However, Everyone, including deadheadvet take pride in showing off the beauty of the animals we raise. All of us loving to post prideful pictures. That is a great satisfaction of raising tortoises, or any animal successfully. A smooth, non-pyramided shell, I believe, is a very desirable and sought after result. Although in a vast majority of the cases it is cosmetic, I personally see it as a sign of great husbandry. Not to eliminate it, but to minimize it.

    In extreme cases, I believe some may actually be bone problems. But I don't feel we are talking about that here. It's the "cosmetic" deformity of the shell growth I feel is reflected in husbandry techniques.

    So many of us have spent decades experimenting with FACTORS that will contribute to or minimize pyramiding. But what is the CAUSE metabolically? I'm 1proposing that the growth of the scute above the bone is the primary cause of pyramiding. The study Mark! referenced showed that Keratin acts and forms differently in a dry vs moist environment. When dried the fibers actually form differently and become more stiff and resistant to a swelling that occurs with keratin that has not been excessively dried. SO...

    I'm proposing that in dry environments, and very slow growth, the keratin as it forms at the edges of the scutes does so in a fairly uniform manner. But when moderate to fast growth occurs - the faster spread of keratin, exposed to dry conditions, will cause the top to stiffen, and not continue to swell as it continues to form, while the bottom of the new scute keratin continues to grow in a thicker way. This pressure is exerted on the new bone growth and causes the new seam to be lower than the previous seam. In a humid environment, the keratin as it spreads, does so much more evenly, with stiffness and swelling equal top and bottom - and grows straight.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2016
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  9. BrianWI

    BrianWI Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    It certainly seems plausible. I wonder if looking at the growth under a microscope would work to see differences between the two?
  10. mctlong

    mctlong Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    Some additional food for thought, since we're on the subject -

    I suspect that pyramiding has an evolutionary advantage and this advantage is directly related to moisture. I was reading a blurb about barrel cacti and it mentioned that the ridges along the sides of this cactus work to channel water to the base of the plant. This is valuable during dry seasons where rain is sparse and the cacti needs to retain as much water as possible from morning dew. Like the ridges on a barrel cactus, the raised scutes on a pyramided tortoises create little channels between the scutes. When it rains, gravity pulls the water straight to the keratin between the scutes. If a drier than average environment causes pyramiding, then the shape of that pyramided shell may be nature's way of correcting the lack of moisture by diverting more rainwater/dew/humidity to the keratin.

    i.e. - Lack of moisture on keratin = pyramiding = more moisture to keratin
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  11. Will

    Will Well-Known Member

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    post 43 this thread, middle paragraph. Post 46 to tie it in with the ecology of populations of tortoises.
  12. BrianWI

    BrianWI Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Seems like a stretch. More surface area could mean LESS moisture reaching the scutes, plus flowing water likely would not absorb anywhere near fast enough to be helpful.
  13. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    To this thread with these new theories, I would add my previous experience with "slow" growth and reduced nutrition, just for the sake of discussion:

    I got my first sulcata in '91. I read the books on sulcatas available at the time and talked to tortoise "experts", and I made my first of many attempts at growing a smooth sulcata. Back then I didn't even know what pyramiding was, even though all the CB tortoise were pyramided and none of the WC were. Didn't take long to figure out that something was amiss. I talked to every person I could find about my failure. I wanted to know what I did wrong. It was unanimously explained by every vet, breeder, book, and expert that where I went wrong was the diet and not enough sun. See, I had been keeping various iguanid species and uromastix too, so I felt like I had a good handle on the whole herbivore diet thing when I got that first sulcata. I was told that during the 8-9 month dry period, there is nothing to eat "over there" except dead dry grasses and such. Hardly any food, and very low nutrient content. It was explained to me that over here in captivity, we feed them too often, too much, and foods from the grocery store that are too nutritious. Armed with this new knowledge I got a couple more babies and set out to get it right this time. I fed them nothing but weeds, grass and leaves, in small quantities and only about three times a week, to try to simulate a more "natural" "wild" type of diet. Since exercise and UV from sunshine were also listed as major factors in this pyramiding thing, I made a roughly 11x40' pen for my tiny little new guys. If the sun was out and temps were 70 or above, which is most days where I am, they were outside walking in the sun. Slow growth was the goal. Low protein, low nutrition and small quantities was the diet. Lots of exercise and sun was the order of the day. "What about hydration?", you ask? Sulcatas (and leopards...), I was told, are a desert species. They get their water from their food. There is no water to drink in the desert during the dry season. They had a water dish in their indoor enclosure and I soaked them about once a week as babies and once a month as they got older. Indoors they had a basking spot during the day, simulating the hot African sun, and night temps dropped to 70ish. This was back in the 90s before we had MVBs or florescent tubes that actually made decent UVB.

    Anyone want to guess the result? They certainly grew slowly. So slowly that I think I stunted them. Both turned out to be male and they were 33 and 37 pounds at 13 years old. I was given a third young tort about a year into it, and she was only about 18 pounds at 12 years old. Is that slow enough for the people who advocate "slow growth" as a solution for what is wrong with tortoise care today? And the pyramiding? Yep. They pyramided just as bad as that first one. Only these pyramided slowly. So my reward for all my hard work, time, research and study was a bunch of tiny little stunted and highly pyramided tortoises. They were healthy, and no sign of MBD, at least. But man were they hungry. They would chase after every leaf that blew into their enclosure like they were starving, because... well... They were starving!

    So forgive my snottiness and skepticism, when people assert that keeping them dry is "natural" and simulating monsoon season will cause RIs and shell rot. It took decades, a lot of failed attempts, and input from many sources to scratch the surface, and begin figuring out what was really going on.
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  14. BrianWI

    BrianWI Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Tom,

    Have any pics of cross sections of badly pyramiding shells?
  15. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    I have some in my desktop if I can find them...

    Yvonne posted some cross sectional X-rays in Marks thread earlier today. Would those work for your purposes?
  16. BrianWI

    BrianWI Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Thats what triggered my interest. If you have actual pictures, so much the better.
  17. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    Just my two cents. i feel trying to raise tortoise smooth should be everyone's goal. If they are naturally smooth in the wild, then that's the way we as owners should try to raise them. If they are "bumpy" in the wild then that's the way we should be raising them. It's not just cosmetic. It's raising them the way they were meant to be. I feel people that dont see "bumpy" as a big deal, it's because they don't want to put the work in it takes to keep the humidity high. It's not easy fighting high temps with high humidity. So too many take the easy way, and dismisses "bumpy" "pyramiding" as something that should be of little concern. Health and the way they look should both be a big concern!
    If I buy a cocker spaniel, I want a healthy one that looks like a cocker spaniel. I don't want a healthy one, that looks like a springer spaniel. At least the effort should be made to try and raise them smooth, if that's the way they were intended to be.
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  18. Cowboy_Ken

    Cowboy_Ken Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I'm guessing here that hairless rats don't fall into this "as they should be" example…
  19. donmacho

    donmacho Member

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  20. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    I have no idea about hairless rats. If they were man made, then no, I don't agree with it. I don't like human kind messing with genetics or not at least trying to raise an animal to look like its naturally suppose to be.
Similar Threads: Pyramiding excess
Forum Title Date
Advanced Tortoise Topics Does diet contribute to pyramiding. Apr 6, 2017
Advanced Tortoise Topics The CAUSE of Pyramiding Jul 6, 2016
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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