Pyramiding in the Wild?

Crush da Baum

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I am kinda confused about this. You almost never see pyramiding in the wild, but how do they achieve this? In Central Asia where Russian tortoises live, it can get very hot and dry. I have heard that they will dig under rotting logs, and dig a hole and poop and pee in it for humidity, but if this is true then they would have to be aware that they need humidity to some extent. If this is true, then how does torts kept under the wrong conditions, too dry enclosures, but have a water bowl they can soak in, still have pyramiding. Wouldn't they just know they are dry and soak in the water. I know this might be a stupid question and I might just be missing something obvious but I just do not get it. Also, another question, if a tortoise was kept in a very dry enclosure, maybe 20, or 30% but had like 4 hour soaks, would they still get pyramiding? Of course, I would never do this, my enclosures stay 70 or 80% because I live in Florida. Just theoretically speaking.
 

Toddrickfl1

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My opinion, because they don't have artificial heat and radiation cooking them 24/7 in the wild.
 

KronksMom

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A water bowl provides water, not humidity. In the wild, they're essentially seeking humid hides, not water to sit in. Not to say that it isn't useful, but sitting in water is different from burrowing into moist substrate. I think of it like drinking water vs putting on lotion. The water bowl hydrates the insides and the humidity hydrates the shell. At least that's how I think of it.
 

Crush da Baum

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A water bowl provides water, not humidity. In the wild, they're essentially seeking humid hides, not water to sit in. Not to say that it isn't useful, but sitting in water is different from burrowing into moist substrate. I think of it like drinking water vs putting on lotion. The water bowl hydrates the insides and the humidity hydrates the shell. At least that's how I think of it.
I see what you mean. Still it does not make sense to me. Wouldn't soaking in pure water be better than in partially water partially something else?
 

Toddrickfl1

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I am kinda confused about this. You almost never see pyramiding in the wild, but how do they achieve this? In Central Asia where Russian tortoises live, it can get very hot and dry. I have heard that they will dig under rotting logs, and dig a hole and poop and pee in it for humidity, but if this is true then they would have to be aware that they need humidity to some extent. If this is true, then how does torts kept under the wrong conditions, too dry enclosures, but have a water bowl they can soak in, still have pyramiding. Wouldn't they just know they are dry and soak in the water. I know this might be a stupid question and I might just be missing something obvious but I just do not get it. Also, another question, if a tortoise was kept in a very dry enclosure, maybe 20, or 30% but had like 4 hour soaks, would they still get pyramiding? Of course, I would never do this, my enclosures stay 70 or 80% because I live in Florida. Just theoretically speaking.
Also keep in mind in the wild even though The ambient air temperature is hot and dry it will be much different say in a burrow, or under a brush pile where Tortoise tend to stay.
 

Tom

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I am kinda confused about this. You almost never see pyramiding in the wild, but how do they achieve this? In Central Asia where Russian tortoises live, it can get very hot and dry. I have heard that they will dig under rotting logs, and dig a hole and poop and pee in it for humidity, but if this is true then they would have to be aware that they need humidity to some extent. If this is true, then how does torts kept under the wrong conditions, too dry enclosures, but have a water bowl they can soak in, still have pyramiding. Wouldn't they just know they are dry and soak in the water. I know this might be a stupid question and I might just be missing something obvious but I just do not get it. Also, another question, if a tortoise was kept in a very dry enclosure, maybe 20, or 30% but had like 4 hour soaks, would they still get pyramiding? Of course, I would never do this, my enclosures stay 70 or 80% because I live in Florida. Just theoretically speaking.
This is one of the mysteries that we still have not fully answered. Much to learn yet.

This might offer some explanation. I found this the other day:
 

Crush da Baum

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Also keep in mind in the wild even though The ambient air temperature is hot and dry it will be much different say in a burrow, or under a brush pile where Tortoise tend to stay.
Yea I see. So really a humid hide is the biggest factor.
 
L

LasTortugasNinja

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Look at their environment in the wild. It's shrubland. There are tons of roots. Those roots have to find moisture. They dig into the moist root system to sleep the heat of the day away. They get indirect UVB from that. Also, "arid" doesn't mean desert. The areas they live see summers of 35% to 50% humidity, and up to 100% humidity during the wet season. That's in the air. At ground level, where the dew collects on plants, the humidity is even higher. 45% to 70%. During the 3 or 4 weeks where the humidity drops to 20%, the torts go deep underground and sleep those off.
 

KronksMom

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I see what you mean. Still it does not make sense to me. Wouldn't soaking in pure water be better than in partially water partially something else?
Also keep in mind in the wild even though The ambient air temperature is hot and dry it will be much different say in a burrow, or under a brush pile where Tortoise tend to stay.
That's basically what I meant. It's not that the pure water wouldn't be better, it's that in a burrow the liquid (be it water, urine, excess fluids from their poop, whatever) is converted to a gas. In that state the humidity can reach the entire tortoise, not just the bottom, where he's sitting. So his entire shell stays moist as it grows. I have no evidence to back this up, that's just what makes sense in my mind.
 

Crush da Baum

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Look at their environment in the wild. It's shrubland. There are tons of roots. Those roots have to find moisture. They dig into the moist root system to sleep the heat of the day away. They get indirect UVB from that. Also, "arid" doesn't mean desert. The areas they live see summers of 35% to 50% humidity, and up to 100% humidity during the wet season. That's in the air. At ground level, where the dew collects on plants, the humidity is even higher. 45% to 70%. During the 3 or 4 weeks where the humidity drops to 20%, the torts go deep underground and sleep those off.
I see what you mean, it sounds a lot like Florida.
 

qiangzhu

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I am kinda confused about this. You almost never see pyramiding in the wild, but how do they achieve this? In Central Asia where Russian tortoises live, it can get very hot and dry. I have heard that they will dig under rotting logs, and dig a hole and poop and pee in it for humidity, but if this is true then they would have to be aware that they need humidity to some extent. If this is true, then how does torts kept under the wrong conditions, too dry enclosures, but have a water bowl they can soak in, still have pyramiding. Wouldn't they just know they are dry and soak in the water. I know this might be a stupid question and I might just be missing something obvious but I just do not get it. Also, another question, if a tortoise was kept in a very dry enclosure, maybe 20, or 30% but had like 4 hour soaks, would they still get pyramiding? Of course, I would never do this, my enclosures stay 70 or 80% because I live in Florida. Just theoretically speaking.
Pyramiding is not only due to low humidity. It is because the tortoise grows too fast and is not in a high humidity environment. If the tortoise grows very slow, it doesn’t need so high humidity. The tortoises in the wild cannot get so much nutrition as they get in captive bred and grow very slow. A wild tortoise is usually several years older than a tortoise in captive bred with the same size.
 

Markw84

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Pyramiding is not only due to low humidity. It is because the tortoise grows too fast and is not in a high humidity environment. If the tortoise grows very slow, it doesn’t need so high humidity. The tortoises in the wild cannot get so much nutrition as they get in captive bred and grow very slow. A wild tortoise is usually several years older than a tortoise in captive bred with the same size.
Simply not true! Fast growth does not cause pyramiding. I have grown plenty of pyramided, intentionally grown very very slow tortoises decades ago in my efforts to try to solve this problem. Pyramiding is caused by the new keratin at the newly expanding growth seams, drying/or curing too fast. This forces the swelling of that new keratin (which is a natural progression of the filling in of the growth seam) to be pushed downward, putting pressure on the bone beneath. This slowly deforms teh bone into valleys that continue to deepen and widen as long as this process continues.

You can grow smooth tortoises fast or slow. You can grow pyramided tortoises fast or slow. High humidity is the single biggest way to help keep the new keratin from drying too quickly.
 

turtlesteve

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You have hit on a really important point. There are causes or contributors to pyramiding that go well beyond humidity. Low humidity is only part of the story and it may not even be the true root cause. Nevertheless I fully agree with recommendations for humid enclosures because it is the best standard of care that we know works consistently.

A small fraction of tortoise keepers and breeders avoid pyramiding under dry conditions - with open top indoor enclosures, or outdoor pens in dry places. It is not clear why but I ask questions whenever I encounter this situation. Usually either the reason is unknown, or is believed to be a combination of factors such as UV, good diet, or growth rate. I do not know the true reason. The cited “optimal” conditions I hear are not unique and lead to pyramiding for most people (absent high humidity).

My suspicion is that there is a hidden variable (or multiple variables) and the devil is in the details somewhere. I am considering several options but lack a large supply of hatchlings to test them all.
 

turtlesteve

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I will add that I agree with Markw84’s ideas on how pyramiding occurs, but I counter that the bones of the shell are being deformed because they are poorly calcified and are flexible. I think the process for hard bone to be dissolved and reformed (such as braces moving crooked teeth) is too slow to explain what is happening. I would hypothesize that we don’t understand calcium metabolism well in tortoises - if we did, the reasons for pyramiding would be apparent.

With hatchlings raised humid, pyramiding occasionally still occurs, but is milder and seems to be delayed in onset (6-12 months of age). The scutes look more like domes than pyramids.
 

qiangzhu

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Simply not true! Fast growth does not cause pyramiding. I have grown plenty of pyramided, intentionally grown very very slow tortoises decades ago in my efforts to try to solve this problem. Pyramiding is caused by the new keratin at the newly expanding growth seams, drying/or curing too fast. This forces the swelling of that new keratin (which is a natural progression of the filling in of the growth seam) to be pushed downward, putting pressure on the bone beneath. This slowly deforms teh bone into valleys that continue to deepen and widen as long as this process continues.

You can grow smooth tortoises fast or slow. You can grow pyramided tortoises fast or slow. High humidity is the single biggest way to help keep the new keratin from drying too quickly.
I still feel it is hard to explain. Although we always say the wild tortoises will burrow a cave which is not that dry, I don’t think the humidity in the cave is like the closed chamber recommended in this forum which is more than 80%. And they will not be in that cave 24 hours per day which is like our closed chamber. But most of the wild tortoise is not pyramiding
 

Markw84

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I still feel it is hard to explain. Although we always say the wild tortoises will burrow a cave which is not that dry, I don’t think the humidity in the cave is like the closed chamber recommended in this forum which is more than 80%. And they will not be in that cave 24 hours per day which is like our closed chamber. But most of the wild tortoise is not pyramiding
A tortoise in the wild its first few years will stay covered in leaf litter, buried, or pushed deep into pallets in roots of plants. Even in areas where the daytime humidity is in the teens, the humidity there is almost always at 100%. They do stay there over 95% of their time. When they do venture out it is in the morning hours with highest humidity of the day, and during rain storms in their monsoon season. Much of the time they can stay hidden and eat what they are hiding in and no need to come out. People have a very distorted idea of what life in the wild is like for a baby tortoise. It is very rare to ever see a baby tortoise in the wild as they are hidden. The few times you may encounter one - it is one of the ones that will not make it and dies! Successful babies that live do not come out. That is one of the main reasons that maybe 2 out of 100 will make it. Some years that are drier in droughts, no babies survive.
 

maggie3fan

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Don't forget that not only are the roots seaking out moisture, the tortoise poops and pees in the tunnel, and that adds humidity. Pyramiding...
100_3974.JPG
and this way as well... 100_3896.JPG
 

yaycolin

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@Markw84 @Tom Would you say to prevent pyramiding, you not only need to keep humidity above 80%, but also keep the shell wet? I have heard of people misting their tortoises shells several times a day, in addition to keeping humidity above 80%. I am curious if this is necessary or if it is just an extra precaution.
 
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