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The End Of Pyramiding

Discussion in 'Tortoise Health' started by Tom, May 21, 2010.

  1. reptylefreek

    reptylefreek New Member

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    When i first got my baby sulcata, I kept him on hay as a substrate. He had a water dish and got regular soakings, but no actual humidity. He pyrimided fast. I have obviously changed his substrate and now I constantly spray him down and I now see some smooth growth. I now have a baby leopard and keep the substrate moist, humidity up there, and spray her regularly till she is dripping wet. I am also doing a kind of experiment with this. I am excited that someone as dedicated as Tom is doing this. I expect to see amazing results, and i hope for them too
  2. Tom

    Tom Active Member

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    Hi Sigmar. There will be no chewing or spitting here today:D. The first thing I noticed on the link you posted was the date, "1996". As Kayti already noted, its pretty outdated. I'll address some of your questions as best I can.

    No, this doesn't happen in the wild. Occasionally you'll see an imported tortoise that is pyramided. I contend that such a tortoise was captive raised in Africa and then shipped over here to the states as a wild caught. I saw this with my own eyes in Africa. There were captive tortoises everywhere. Thousands of them.

    A couple of points about the wild, but a preface first. MY theory is that pyramiding is CAUSED by growth in the absence of sufficient humidity/moisture. Yes they come from a hot dry area, but they aren't growing when its at its hottest and driest. They aestivate in humid underground burrows during those times. They are only growing during the humid, sloppy wet rainy season, because that's the only time there is plentiful, nutritious food around. As Maggie pointed out, its 88% humidity over there right now. Its not as hot and dry all year over there as we tend to think it is. I was in the natural habitat of the Leopard tortoise for several months and at times the humidity was just like Louisiana. At others times, it was below freezing at night.

    Second point about the wild: Babies don't come above ground much. You'll never see a hatchling sulcata or leopard just walking around out in the open, hot, dry air. They'd get picked off by a host of predators instantaneously. They stay underground in humid burrows most of the time or bury themselves into the damp root balls of plants. They stay hidden in humid areas of an otherwise dry landscape. It is also my belief that the pattern for shell growth is established in the first few days or weeks of a young tortoises life. Most experienced keepers and breeders have told me that if you can get them to 4 or 6" smooth, they will continue to grow that way regardless of how they are kept after that. Prior to figuring that one out, I always wondered why smooth, young wild caughts didn't start pyramiding as soon as they got over here into the same captive conditions as our pyramided ones.

    Calcium: I think your vet is referring to over-supplementation and/or possibly calcium with D3. Sprinkling a little plain calcium carbonate on the food occasionally is pretty natural. About the same as leaving cuttle bone around. There are excellent keepers here on the forum (GB) who don't use it at all. He keeps mostly smaller species. Other excellent keepers (Yvonne) recommend a fair amount of calcium supplementation for the larger growing species like sulcatas or Aldabrans in her case. Yvonne is careful to point out that she doesn't use calcium with D3, as her tortoises get lots of sunshine. Personally, I'm somewhere in between. I don't use a lot of supplements, but I do occasionally use a little.

    Now then; will somebody please correct my ignorance and tell me what is TT. Is that Tortoise Trust? I'm assuming they have a forum too. So Andy is another yahoo with no sulcata experience whatsoever, telling people who have been keeping and RAISING sulcatas for decades that they are all wrong about everything? IF that is true, he doesn't sound like a very bright guy. A couple of months ago, I had this very argument with a guy here on the forum. It was going nowhere and it finally occurred to me to ask what his level of experience with sulcatas was. ZERO. He was talking about Egyptians. It turns out that he and I were both probably right in what we were saying, but we were talking about two totally different species. I know nothing about Egyptian tortoises. I would never intentionally argue anything about how to properly raise an Egyptian.

    If Andy or any of his followers are here please chime in. I don't see how you have a leg to stand on if you haven't raised a few sulcatas, but I would like to hear what you have to say. I only ask that it be a two way street. I don't know everything, but I do know a few things. I am, after all, here to learn.
  3. -EJ

    -EJ New Member

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    There is no doubt that the answer lays within the boundry line of the scutes... this is where pyramiding begins. The keratin layer restricts bone growth in pyramiding.


    [hr]
    wow... this is ignorance at it's best.

    How does he explain my results feeding a strict pelleted diet which he... in his infinate wisdom... believes is 'too high' in protein.

    Needless to say... those keepers who actually learn from their experiences and that of others tend to drift away from this particular person.

    I'd love to see a reference or any 'reasonable' explanation for his 'facts'.

    I can only come up with one thought on the AHs 'facts'... idiotic.

    [hr]
    A wonderful account of the Sulcata in it's natural habitat can be found in 'The Crying Tortoise'... a French publication... not easy to find.

    I don't know about anyone else but I'll never attack a person for having a difference of opinion.

    [hr]
    I could be mistaken but the last time I looked Melissa K. is a keeper the same as you or I. She is a great researcher and writer but does a disservice by injecting her personal slant on any topic she writes on. She does not, by any means offer objective information.

    Her writings would be fantastic if she offered the spectrum of her research and let the reader decide which is correct. This is along the lines of the AH... what I present is correct and everything else is nonsense.

    [hr]
    Tom... Pyramiding definately occurs in the wild. I'm basing this opinion of seeing many imported wild caught tortoises and observing tortoises in the wild.[hr]
    Last point... Tom... I think you should do what you are doing and check out the results... you should ask as many question of the newbe who posted the other photo of the sulcata... you are not going to get more perfect than that.
  4. Tom

    Tom Active Member

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    Thanks for chiming in Ej. I always appreciate your opinion, even when you disagree with me.

    Have you seen wild pyramided sulcatas? I've heard of Leopards and Stars, but not sulcatas. I don't count imports, because so many are captive raised, in some form or other, over there.

    I didn't see a single pyramided Leopard in all of South Africa. I've been there twice for a total of about 4 months. I only saw a handful of wild ones actually in the wild, but I saw literally hundreds of captives.

    I agree with you on CGKeith's sulcata. That is the best, smoothest shell I've ever seen. I want to know everything that he's done from day one.

    CGKeith, where did you go? Your fans want answers.
  5. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer Staff Member

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    This is copied from the link you provided, "Sulcatas come from some of the Sahel, the hottest, driest area in Africa. Some regions may not get rain for years. To make the most of available moisture, their skin is resistant to fluid loss but, when exposed to moisture, may become highly permeable. Towards this end, they will excavate pallets or burrows in the ground to get to areas with higher moisture levels; in the wild, they may spend the hottest part of the day in these microhabitats."

    In other words, they go into a humid environment, and while they're there, they poop and pee, keeping the humidity level up.

    I would hope that we would be a little more forgiving than you suggest, and chew on you just a bit, but be lady-like and not do any spitting! :D
  6. Kristina

    Kristina New Member

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    I have nothing important to add at the moment (I did my bit on Tom's other thread, LOL) but I just want to say I love you gyys, lol. Seriously. Tom, this is awesome and I really think some major answers are going to be discovered over the next 6 months, and I am anxious to read on.
  7. Jacqui

    Jacqui Well-Known Member Staff Member

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    Dang Yvonne, there ya go taking away all our fun again! :p
  8. Sigmar

    Sigmar New Member

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    In other words, they go into a humid environment, and while they're there, they poop and pee, keeping the humidity level up.

    I would hope that we would be a little more forgiving than you suggest, and chew on you just a bit, but be lady-like and not do any spitting! Big Grin
    Yvonne G.

    This is copied from the same source,,,,,Sulcatas are, like most turtles and tortoises native to dry areas, extremely efficient in their use of water. A sulcata may urinate just 0.64 ml a day, significantly less than their spur-thighed cousins living in the relatively lush Mediterranean countries who may urinate 1-2 ml a day. A danger, then, in captivity is that too much water may be given or made accessible which may lead to health problems including skin and shell infections and kidney problems.

    .64 ml is no where near enough to keep up humidity in that climate even in an enclosed burrow
  9. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer Staff Member

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    But you're missing the point. Those burrows go down so deep that the tortoise is in an already moist environment. Then add what little urine they expel, even less than a ml, and they actually ARE in a humid environment. They dig down at an angle for 20 feet or so, then they make a turn, usual a left turn. This bend in the tunnel effectivly blocks out the incoming hot air. When they get to where they want the tunnel to end, they excavate a small turn-around. So they are in a pretty tight and closed-in area of moist earth.

    (Pa-too-ey!!)
  10. chadk

    chadk New Member

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    What is the humidity already in that burrow? How many torts use the burrow?

    As we know, getting a hatchling started right can be the biggest challenge. So you really need to know the micro-climate of HATCHLINGS and not so much the adults. What time of year are they born? Where do they spend their time?

    Has anyone ever experienced a sulcata that has had access to clean fresh water 24X7 have associated health problems???
  11. -EJ

    -EJ New Member

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    The similarities of some of the responses to previous 'discussions' on other lists is scary.

    It looks like those who have their minds made up are not going to change their line of thought.

    I don't mind debate but when more questions are asked than answered... that's not a debate. I've already done the work to attain the results I have. If anyone questions my or anyone elses results... they need to do the research and offer an answer to support their oppinion.

    This 'discussion/debate' is way too familiar and is heading in a pointless direction.
  12. Tom

    Tom Active Member

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    Ej, are you producing smooth hatchlings now. I can't recall seeing any pics. If so, what have you discovered to be the trick? You mentioned temps before. Are you going hotter or cooler than normal?

    You are right. I do have my mind made up and within the next few months I'll either look like a bumbling idiot or a genius. My results will do all the talking for me, one way or the other. If humidity has nothing to do with pyramiding, then these new babies should pyramid at exactly the same rate as my other ones all have, since I am raising them exactly the same way. I've already posted pics of my adults several times and I'll probably take some more photos for comparison sake and posting here in this thread. Point being; the rate of pyramiding in my area with my style of raising them is well documented and easily seen. The only variable, I'm changing for these current hatchlings is humidity and moisture.
  13. CGKeith

    CGKeith New Member

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    Sorry, I haven't been able to sit long enough to post again until now.

    Like I stated prior, I only had this little one for less than a year.
    I stated the diet prior.
    The enclosure was just the large plastic Christmas tree bin sold by walmart. You can see the substrate in the pictures, just newspaper and a little bermuda grass.
    Yes it had a small water dish, but I could never get it to drink from the dish, which is why I started misting it daily, it would drink the drops that dripped off the tip of it's nose (something I have had to do with some lizards).
    Lighting was a MVB, placed about 12" above the substrate.
    The only other condition that could factor in is the fact that I run a Mastercool (swamp cooler) which keeps a constant humidity level in the room.

    I have kept baby desert tortoises the same way with near perfect shell growth as well.

    That being said, I have Ibera greeks that have pyramided when kept under the same conditions.
    I now have all my indoor enclosures with cypress mulch, kept deep enough to dig under and damp. I am liking the results so far on the greeks.
  14. Tom

    Tom Active Member

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    Sigmar, I've never heard of any burrow humidity studies done in Africa and I've never tested it here, BUT I have dug a lot of holes in the desert. In fact two weeks ago we dug an 18" deep trench to bury the wire and foundation posts for my new lizard cage. About 6" below the surface the dirt is wet. In the middle of summer when its 110 every day and single digit humidity with no rain for several months the dirt is cool and damp just a foot down.

    Rather than guessing and speculating, remind me in July or August and I'll dig a big hole with a short horizontal section off to one side and we will measure humidity. The climate up here is pretty similar to the natural range of the sulcata. Its very hot and dry. I think we get less rainfall than that part of the world. We get hardly any. Often when is raining or gloomy just over the hill in Los Angeles, its hot and sunny up here.

    Its not scientific, I know, but its better than everyone guessing. I can do it right now, but we've had an unusually long and heavy rainy season here this year, so I'm afraid it will be wetter than the norm. By the middle of summer, however, everything will have had plenty of hot, dry, windy weather to dry out. I'll set the probe out in the open on bare dirt and leave it for an hour or so to check surface humidity, then I'll dig a big hole right in that spot, reach in and dig a horizontal side tunnel, stick the probe in there for an hour and take a pic of the digital readout for all to see.[hr]
    Wow. Thanks for the details. So, I'll bet you run the swamp cooler most of the year in AZ, right? Do you have a humidity gauge of some sort in the room? I'd sure like to know what the humidity is in there.

    The shell misting thing has been gaining ground in my mind and your pics make a pretty good case for it.

    Do you supplement Ca? D3 or not? Sunshine? Exercise?

    Your experience with the greeks is pretty interesting too. Both ways.

    Again sorry to grill you so hard, but your case is so exceptional that you need to give the rest of us lessons, seriously.
  15. -EJ

    -EJ New Member

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    Do a little research in the archives... there is tons of good information to be found there.

  16. DeanS

    DeanS Active Member

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    I still don't remember a response from Ed regarding temps...
  17. CGKeith

    CGKeith New Member

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    Tom, I have had one of those little stick on humidity guages and it will vary with the weather since it is pulling in the air from outside. I run the cooler from April through October. Normal dry days here I might have a reading inside of 15% -20%, rainy days may get a reading as high as 40%-50%.

    No supplements. No sunshine.

    I would be curious to see if the same results that I had could be duplicated, but I don't really want to raise a sulcata. :)
  18. -EJ

    -EJ New Member

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    Again... check the archives. I think I've covered my opinion quite thoroughly on this topic.

    The main problem with some people is they want answers handed to them on a platter.

    I've spent thousands on research material and many years of networking in addition to many years of practical experience... for some reason this particular thread has actually angered me.

    For those of you who do the research and actually find the 'answer'... I do hope you will extend the same courtacy that long time keepers have extended and actually share your results.

  19. Kristina

    Kristina New Member

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    I find that statement intriguing, especially since you refuse to type out a simple temperature number because it is "in the archives."

    Wouldn't that be a case of the pot calling the kettle black?
  20. mightyclyde

    mightyclyde New Member

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    I am excited about the experiment. I think it has possibilities. However, it seems that duplicating the experiments will be difficult for anyone else, as none of it seems to be measurable in any way. "frequent" mistings, "high" humidity, soak(s)... can mean anything. Completely subjective.
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