Glossary of terms and definitions.

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The member formerly known as captain awesome
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Aug 15, 2008
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RI or URTI- respiratory infection or upper respiratory tract infection
MBD- metabolic bone disease
Gpp- Geochelone pardalis pardalis
Gpb- Geochelone pardalis babcocki
RT- Russian tortoise
EBT- Eastern Box Turtle
RES- Red eared slider
DBT- Diamond back terrapin
TTBT- three toed box turtle
UV- Ultra Violet
MVB- mercury vapor bulb
CHE- ceramic heating element
CB or CBB- captive bred or captive born and bred
WC- wild caught
CDT- CA desert tortoise


Wanna be raiser of Lemon Drop tortoises
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RE: Glossary of terms and definitions.

(I took the list of terms (not the abreviations) so far from my original one and added terms suggested by others and for my own use had alphabetized them and started changing some wording, so it was not an exact copy. I thought may be it would be a help to place a copy in here to be used as a next rough draft.)

1.2.3 - when three numbers are listed with a colon or a period between them, it refers to the genders (sexes) of the animals- the number of males, females, and unknown. If it is shown as 2:4:6 then that means 2 males, 4 females, and 6 unsexed animals.

Aestivation- a sort of dormancy usually triggered by hot, dry weather. it is not as deep as hibernation/brumation but deeper than sleeping.

Ambient humidity: The overall humidity of an area, most often for the room the animal is kept in.

Ambient lighting: The lighting of an overall area, most often used for the room the room the reptile is in.

Ambient temperatures: The overall temperatures of an area, most often used for the room a tortoise habitat is in.

Anal scutes: the scutes located at the rear (two of them) on either side of the tail.

Babyfood soaks: Adding nutrients (babyfood pumpkin or carrots very often) to a soak so the tortoise can get benefits from them if it drinks. Some nutrients may be absorbed through the thin skin around the cloaca as well. Often used on animals not eating or sick.

Basking: aka 'sunning'. Reptiles bask to warm up. This boosts their metabolism and helps them get over a cool period, digest foods, recover from illness or injury, etc. They also get a dose of UVB and vitamin D. With water turtles, it is recommended the basking site be 10 degrees warmer then the water temperature.

Beak: The hard upper and lower sharp, toothless jaw of a chelonian.

Bridge: part of the shell that connects the carapace to the plastron.

Brumation- the reptile version of hibernation. True hibernation has slightly different metabolic processes.

Ca: P- Calcium to phosphorous ratio. We want the average ratio to be somewhere between 2:1 and 1:1, meaning that there is somewhere between equal amounts or twice as much calcium.

Captive born (CB): Hatched or born while in captivity. Captive born animals should have fewer parasites than wild-caught, and also reduce the stress on wild populations.However, you will not know positively the sex nr the looks when it reaches adulthood.

Calcium (Ca): A mineral available in many foods, like dark greens, that is use by the body to make bones, nerves, and muscle. It is used in a ratio of between 2 to 1 and 1 to 1 with phosphorous to make strong bones.

Carapace: the top shell. Depending on species this may be hard or soft/leathery (such as on a seaturtle)

Carnivorous: feeds upon protein, usually the bodies of other animals.

Chelonian: general term to cover all turtles, terrapins, and tortoises.

CITES: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. A group of over 100 countries that oversee the trade, monitoring or banning the trade of endangered or soon to become endangered animals including turtles and tortoises.

Cloaca: the opening on the tail thru which bowel movements, urinary waste and reproduction (breeding and eggs) take place. It's location on the tail can also be used to help determine gender (closer to the body is a sign of a female).

Concave: when the plastron curves inward. Often seen on males to aid in breeding.

Copulation: breeding

Dormancy- a general term for any sort of metabolic slow-down an animal undergoes, such as aestivation or brumation.

Dremel: A hand-held power tool with exchangeable bits or tips for grinding, cutting, polishing, etc. Used by many to trim beaks on tortoises.

Dry docking: Keeping an aquatic or semi-aquatic species in a dry cage. Most often used to help it get over an illness or injury such as shell rot.

Gender: sex of the animal

Gular: The front pair of scutes on the plastron. Some species have gulars that project in front of the carapace and are used by males in courtship and/or combat.

Hardware cloth: welded wire mesh, usually 1/2" spaces

Hibernate a period of inactivity or rest during the winter. Also called 'brumate' or 'brumation'.

Humid hide: A shelter in which an effort has been made to raise the humidity above that of the rest of the habitat.

Hybrid: the offspring resulting from the cross between two animals of different species.

Inbreeding: crossing animal which are related to each other. Such as a mother to a son.

Keratin: The material that makes up the scutes and scales. It is basically the same thing as a fingernail.

Long Term Captive (LTC): These were once wild caught animals, but have lived for many years in captivity.

Micro-environments: The climate in a small place, like a hide or burrow, o0n a pile of rocks, etc. Micro-climates are often much different than the ambient climate.

Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD): A catch-all term for several diseases or problems that can affect the bone development. The most common is the result of a poor balance of UVB or vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorous.

Nares: the pair of openings into the nasal cavity.

Nocturnal: active at night.

Overbite: When the front tip of the beak overgrows and overlaps the lower beak more than it should. Untreated, this can result in problems eating. Often caused by a diet that does not let the beak wear naturally.


Phosphorus (P): A mineral needed by bones to keep them from getting too brittle, but too much (more than the available calcium) makes bones soft. Available in most foods to some extent.

Plastron: the bottom shell.

Protein: A nutrient used to build muscles and other tissues. Proteins can come from plants or animals- although some of the amino acids in the proteins are different between the two.

Scale: the covering often appearing like a shield that covers legs and head.

Scutes: the sections covering the carapace and plastron.

Soaking: Partially immersing a tortoise in warm water to allow it to absorb fluids in the cloaca and/or drink, to help treat or prevent dehydration.

Soft Shell Disease: see Metabolic Bone Disease.

Split Scutes: Scutes that are abnormally divided, usually while developing in the egg. They are usually oddly-shaped as well. A somewhat extreme version is the 'zipper back', where most of the veterbal scutes are split.

Straight line measurement: The length of a chelonian measured from the start of the shell until the end of the shell. Measured flat on the ground, not along the carapace's curve. When somebody asks you how big your tortoise is, this is the measurement you give.

Substrate: The material used at the bottom of a cage or habitat.

Surface temperatures: The temperatures on the surfaces an animal can sit, walk, or rest on. They are usually hotter or cooler than the ambient temps.

Tortoise/Turtle/Terrapin: A shelled reptile. Often called 'chelonians' in general. Usage varies by region, although in general 'tortoise' is used for dry land animals and 'turtle' for aquatic. Terrapin is used in Europe for basking or pond turtles and in the US for brackish water species or edible turtles (in the South). Scientifically, 'turtle' is a shelled reptile and a 'tortoise' is a member of the family 'Testudindea'.

UVB: Middle-range ultraviolet light. UV light is divided into A, B, and C based on the wavelengths. A has several benefits, but the top group of wavelengths in the B range is what is needed to help the body convert the light energy into vitamin D in the blood. It is produced naturally by the sun (although it does not penetrate glass or plastic well) and by specially-made bulbs labeled as 'UVB'.

Underbite: When the bottom beak over laps the upper beak. May cause problems eating. This is not as common as an overbite.

Upper Respiratory Infection (URI): A viral disease similar to flu in humans. Causes runny noses, distressed breathing, etc. Can be serious, even fatal.

Wild caught (WC): Captured in the wild. WC animals often carry parasites and have been exposed to significant stress by getting caught, then shipped wherever. Some species have become endangered because of wild populations being collected for the pet trade. However for some species, this may be their only chance to survive.

Yvonne G

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