Hibernation for Testudo

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GeoTerraTestudo

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Cool responses, guys! Looking forward to seeing what Mick might have to say.

BTW - Ryan, what part of the country do you live in?
 

Tom

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Well the mystery deepens. Seems like the people who simulate wild conditions the most are having the LEAST amount of success. That's a surprise.

To recap:
Ryan just leaves his inside all the time and they self impose a light hibernation even though temps and light cycles don't change much. He has great breeding success.

Neltharion leaves his outside most of the year in Northern CA, and does a short indoor cooling period and has great breeding success.

Emysemys is fairly close to Neltharion and does it nearly the same, but has no breeding success at all.

GB does a mix of indoors and outdoors, with a hibernation, and has mixed results.

My friend Ken leaves his 1.4 group outdoors year round with a "natural" hibernation, here in Southern CA, and after several years has had no success.

I PM'd Mick. Can't wait to hear what he has to say.

Jacqui and her friend in Nebraska do not hibernate, but do have breeding success. Jacqui, we need still more details on your routine. Pretty please...

I'm just not seeing any commonalities that would explain this... Anyone else? Here's a possible theory: Origin and different types of russians.

Around two years ago Danny did a thread listing the three russian subspecies. I was met with much debate and the thread died without much conclusion. Some said thera are no subspecies and just slightly different appearances from different regions of the range. Is it possible that there ARE different types from throughout the range, whether they are true subspecies or not, and that these different types will not interbreed very well?

Will everyone listed above please do their best to list their tortoises source and origin if it is known? Maybe Ryan and Neltharion bought all adults that all came in in one shipment all from the same geographical region. Maybe Yvonne has acquired several types over the years as rescues and they are from different regions. I know my friend Ken has just bought his one at a time over the years from different sources. Two or three are CBB and his latest one is WC. If this theory IS correct we might be on our way to solving the mystery.
 

dmmj

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To help settle the mystery, mine were all rescues Origin unknown. The male I have had the longest loves to mate though.
 

Tom

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dmmj said:
To help settle the mystery, mine were all rescues Origin unknown. The male I have had the longest loves to mate though.

It seems ALL the mature males like to mate, but the question is: Any babies?
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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Here's the thread on Russian subspecies (it is stickied at the top of the Russian tortoise sub-forum). I believe EgyptianDan did mention that Russian tortoises from different subspecies have difficulty interbreeding. The three types are fairly easy to distinguish:

Testudo horsfieldi horsfieldi - Profile is domed, shell is rounded
Testudo horsfieldi rustamovi - Profile is domed, shell is elongated
Testudo horsfieldi kazachstanica - Profile is flattened, shell is rounded

Those who are having trouble breeding their Russian tortoises can check to see if they have individuals from different subspecies. As Tom said, maybe those who are having greater success are those with tortoises from the same subspecies. It's worth looking into.
 

-ryan-

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I'll give you the origin story for my group, but I'm afraid as you'll find there is also no consistency:

1.0 acquired in late 2005 as a hatchling CB (from lllreptile). My first tortoise. Now less than 5" and approximately 6-6.5 years of age. Has been breeding with limited success since 4" at 3 years, better success after 4-4.5 years of age. Appearance is slightly domed and elongated. Blonde color.

0.1 acquired as a rescue in early 2006. Adult when acquired at 5". Now approximately 7". First breeding success after 3 years in my captive care. Now fairly regular egg layer (about 3-4 clutches of 2-3 eggs per year). Appearance is domed and round. Dark color.

0.1 acquired mid-late 2006. Adult and gravid when acquired. Already close to 8". Most regular breeder I have. Laid eggs shortly after acquired, one of which hatched creating the tortoise which I will document next. Lays 5-6 clutches per year of 2-4 eggs (if only 2, they are usually jumbo). Appearance is flat and elongated. Very blonde color.

0.1 hatched from initial clutch in late 2006. Raised without artificial lighting. Indoors entire life. Grew quickly to approximately 8" scl. Has not to my knowledge laid eggs yet, but is young (though large), and was recently integrated into the group as she is not related to my male. Her mother was the above documented large blonde tortoise, and father was a small russian highly domed and almost perfectly round (and very dark). This tortoise is slightly domed, but elongated and very blonde in color.

0.1 acquired early 2010 as a trade for hatchlings. 7" when acquired and has shown some growth since then. Second strongest layer with 4-6 clutches of 2-3 eggs per year. Appearance is round and domed, dark in coloration.

So I really don't feel that different subspecies will effect the ability of the tortoises to reproduce successfully. I don't really subscribe to the idea of russian subspecies (not willing to get into that debate though), so I just consider these changes naturally occurring color and shape variants in animals that, for all intents and purposes are the same.

Even though I don't mark which female lays the eggs, I have gotten to the point that I can tell once they hatch whose babies they were, based mostly on color and size.

Obviously something is happening the right way with my tortoises (I'm not going to go so far as to say that "I am doing something right", because all I did was build a very specific box). Actually, the only thing I can't seem to get dialed in at this point is my incubation technique. It is off and on, and with a little tweaking I could probably get close to 100% hatch rate out of all of those eggs. That and I sometimes go too long between digging up eggs. The worst is when you are digging in an area they don't usually use and so are not as careful as normal, and you stick your finger through a well-rotten egg. It takes a lot of washing to get rid of that smell.

Tom said:
Well the mystery deepens. Seems like the people who simulate wild conditions the most are having the LEAST amount of success. That's a surprise.

To recap:
Ryan just leaves his inside all the time and they self impose a light hibernation even though temps and light cycles don't change much. He has great breeding success.

Neltharion leaves his outside most of the year in Northern CA, and does a short indoor cooling period and has great breeding success.

Emysemys is fairly close to Neltharion and does it nearly the same, but has no breeding success at all.

GB does a mix of indoors and outdoors, with a hibernation, and has mixed results.

My friend Ken leaves his 1.4 group outdoors year round with a "natural" hibernation, here in Southern CA, and after several years has had no success.

I PM'd Mick. Can't wait to hear what he has to say.

Jacqui and her friend in Nebraska do not hibernate, but do have breeding success. Jacqui, we need still more details on your routine. Pretty please...

I'm just not seeing any commonalities that would explain this... Anyone else? Here's a possible theory: Origin and different types of russians.

Around two years ago Danny did a thread listing the three russian subspecies. I was met with much debate and the thread died without much conclusion. Some said thera are no subspecies and just slightly different appearances from different regions of the range. Is it possible that there ARE different types from throughout the range, whether they are true subspecies or not, and that these different types will not interbreed very well?

Will everyone listed above please do their best to list their tortoises source and origin if it is known? Maybe Ryan and Neltharion bought all adults that all came in in one shipment all from the same geographical region. Maybe Yvonne has acquired several types over the years as rescues and they are from different regions. I know my friend Ken has just bought his one at a time over the years from different sources. Two or three are CBB and his latest one is WC. If this theory IS correct we might be on our way to solving the mystery.
 

Tom

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Great info. Thanks Ryan.

I'm stumped. Anyone want to guess?

Seems like in all cases they do better after settling in for a period of years, but that doesn't explain some of the cases that have had little or no breeding success.
 

Neltharion

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Tom said:
Around two years ago Danny did a thread listing the three russian subspecies. I was met with much debate and the thread died without much conclusion. Some said thera are no subspecies and just slightly different appearances from different regions of the range. Is it possible that there ARE different types from throughout the range, whether they are true subspecies or not, and that these different types will not interbreed very well?

Will everyone listed above please do their best to list their tortoises source and origin if it is known?

Mine came from a wholesaler in Southern California that buys Russians from an exporter in Uzbekistan. I tend to believe that the exporter has several people collecting for them though covering different areas. The group that I have may not all be from the same region. Also I bought my first trio a little over two years before I bought the next two trios. Mine tend to be rounder and not as high domed. There were a lot of variations in color. One male and female in particular are more of a high yellow than green.
 

Az tortoise compound

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Our Russian group is now 6.18. (not all are proven) That represents 3 purchases of 2.6 with the last group added in early 2010. They were purchased from three different sources but I can only trace them back to the importer not where they were collected?? They are all housed together, outside all year long. Some disappear for several weeks every winter while others stay active (every other day or so). Nests are laid from Mar-Apr until late June when they start to aestivate. Every day they are active they display breeding behavior...Hatch rates have increased as the adults have aged. The addition of misters (summertime) two years ago has helped me postpone aestivation and gain a second clutch of eggs each year from my oldest females.

My opinion on 3 ssp is...The jury is still out. I have had all body types in the same imported group so who knows?
I also do not subscribe to the theory that hibernation increases breeding behavior or egg production.
 

GBtortoises

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Ryan breeding method contains consistency (along with alot of heat and dryness) which I think is the most important aspect of tortoise breeding-routine. I've always believed that the most sucessful breeders live in areas of warmer longer summers and mild to no winters, even with Northern Mediterranean Testudo species. Or kept their tortoises exclusively indoors. In order for me to do that here in the Northeast with all that I have I would need a 50' x 100' or bigger opne barn that was insulated and heated. The wife isn't up for that!
As far as the Russian subspecies issue-for the most part, very few researchers and experts except the subspecies. I tend to agree with them and believe that they are only different physical variations based on different geographical regions, but the same species.
Mick-Hibernation may not affect tortoises in your climate as they do in mine, but here where I live my tortoises show a very obvious response to hibernation in relation to spring mating. I have adult Testudo that I keep indoors, awake throughout the winter and place them outdoors in the spring. They breed and produce eggs very inconsistenly. I also have groups that hibernate outdoors here from November through April. From the point of first coming out of the ground you can just about set your watch to them. They breed and then produce their first, second and often third clutch of eggs like clockwork. A very important result of this is that my outdoor tortoises have a far higher fertility rate than do my tortoises that are overwintered indoors. But again, I believe that it may have everything to do with the climate that they are exposed to.
 

Tom

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Reading all this and studying up for the last few weeks is making me want to give it a try even sooner than I had originally planned... Time to start building.
 

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We've always left my husband's out to hibernate if they wanted to with no ill effects and had decided not to do that this year. Our winters are mild and they act much like Mick's, sleeping for weeks with brief periods of activity. Now I'm reconsidering. It seems like hands off is the way to go. As I've mentioned before, we've seen attempts at mating, but no eggs, and we felt that it was mostly due to a lack of maturity of the male (he had trouble figuring out the right end, for example). We'll also have another group that has been left out during winter in a similar climate. I know that the rule is not to hibernate in the first year, but we don't get snow, so they won't be hard to check, and they haven't been overwintered indoors in the past.
 

Tom

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As a side note, I've heard the "don't hibernate them their first year" theory many times. I'm not sure I agree with it. I myself have done it many time with baby lizards and torts with no problems. I do it indoors, under complete control and carefully, and I've never had any problems. They all hibernate their first year out in the wild, don't they? I'm not willing to just leave a baby outside for fear of predators and weather extremes, but under controlled conditions, I don't have a problem with it.
 

CactusVinnie

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Hi all!

Regarding the low rate of success in breeding Horsflelds, keep in mind that they HIBERNATE everywhere in their distribution, all the ssp. Winter minima there range from -15*C down to -45*C in that vast areal: from Armenia to Mongolia!! Something like from central AZ/NM/TX up to Manitoba. I think it is a distinctive feature for them- long inactivity periods.
 

Jacqui

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Tom said:
Jacqui and her friend in Nebraska do not hibernate, but do have breeding success. Jacqui, we need still more details on your routine. Pretty please...

Okay, I doubled checked on some of the details with Shelly when I stopped by her house last night. Unfortunately, I couldn't get into a lot of detail with her, as she was on her way to ship off a Russian hatchling to some lucky person. I did also get the chance to see one of her eggs starting to hatch and a just hatched baby. (I always forget how tiny hatchlings are and just how miraculous they seem).

We both keep our Russians inside during the cold months, which here are usually late Sept to early October. I tend to keep mine out a few weeks longer then she does. Inside we both keep ours in warm rooms, but she also uses UV lights, which I don't. Substrates I think are both the coir/sand combo. Shelly does keep her males separate from the females.

Come Spring, mine once more go out a few weeks earlier then her tortoises. Top of my head, I really can't think when mine went out this year, perhaps late April? Once out, mine stay out 24/7. I need to double check, but I believe she does the same.

May avg temp is 74/50 rainfall 4.65 humidity am 84% humidity pm 60%
June avg temp is 84/61 " " 4.77 " " 83% " " 58%
July avg temp is 89/67 " " 3.87 " " 83% " " 58%
Aug avg temp is 86/64 " " 3.85 " " 87% " " 61%
Sept avg temp is 78/53 " " 2.98 " " 85% " " 59%


I learned something doing that chart, I never realized how high our relative humidty averages were. Sorta shocked me.
 

Tom

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Jacqui, You've got a lot of tortoise experience. Got any ideas why some have success breeding russians and some don't, given all the wildly different housing and care techniques?

BTW, Thanks for the info.:)
 

pdrobber

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what happened to this thread? let's see if I get a response to these or it takes someone like Tom to ask in order to get answers...anyway...

After reading this and other threads, we have an idea about influences of hibernation and indoor vs outdoor, climate in general.

Roughly judging based on this data, maybe there are consistently better results with as large as possible indoor enclosures(for most US climates), minimal handling, and a light hibernation?

However, I'm still curious
1. lighting? what temps are at basking spot, cool spots, nighttime in enclosures most of the time (in comparison to hibernation temps and duration)
2. vitamins, calcium and supplements being used? which? how much? how often? I recall someone saying they don't use UVB but do provide Calcium w/ D3 (it has been disputed that D3 can be overdosed)
3. substrate being used, depth and moisture level
4. how many males? how are they all being kept? males together, females and males together? in pairs, trios, all together? males being put together sometimes to trigger competition, stimulate hormones?

also
what kind of incubator?
substrate?
humidity method and level?
duration?
temp?
 

gopherhockey03

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GBtortoises said:
Well, I haven't been to the Southwest, but I'm guessing with some artificial hibernation they would breed well outdoors there. I have been to Colorado several times at different times of the year visiting relatives and I don't see Russians being successfully bred there on a regular basis. Where in the U.S., if at all, is there bitter cold dry conditions for most of the year that turns to extreme heat almost instantly and only for 3-4 months before ending in a brief rainy fall then back to winter? None that I know of and if so I don't want to live there anyway! I did live in North Dakota for 2.5 years about 30 years ago and as I recall, it was pretty darn close to the climate description above!

All the other Testudo species breed pretty well almost everywhere in the U.S.

So as you know Gary I live in North Dakota you think they could hibernate here? I think they would have to dig down pretty deep not to freeze. As you know it can get down to -40 with LOTS of snow... I'm interested in hibernating and your right the climate where they come from is almost identical to what it is up here!
 

pdrobber

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hmm maybe my questions should be separate since this is titled "Hibernation..." DUH so if a mod wants to move it feel free, just want to bring up the topic of Russian breeding again and see some discussion on factors other than hibernating.
 
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