Significant of Microclimates in Captivity

tortadise

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Significant of Microclimates in Captivity By;Kelly Hull

Many tortoise enthusiasts have recently displayed an interest in keeping their tortoise in a more humid environment. While humidity is a necessary need for all living creatures. Do we really need a South African or North African species of tortoise to be under swamp like conditions all hours of their life span in captivity?
Upon recent years some keepers have been boggled by the discussions, scientific data, and physical appearance of highly pyramided tortoises in captivity. Does humidity hold the answers for growing a smooth shelled tortoise? Many questions have arose in many long term keepers minds. Some say diet is the root cause. Some say hydration and diet combination is the root cause to eliminating a “pyramided” tortoise. With results many have shown the significant differences that humidity can provide in the way a tortoise grows.
In keeping animals it is always been the highest achievement to mirror the natural environment of species being kept. In doing so, this requires a vast amount of research. Would you keep a polar bear in a desert? Most would not. But it is possible to keep a polar bear in the desert. Of course the animal’s habitat would have to be manipulated into conditions in which they thrive in. Food would need to be offered as closely as it could for proper health benefits and longevity of life. Longevity in captive animals is another struggle many keepers have not understood. Obviously any animal in the wild is objectified to risks and loss of life within any given second it is alive. Predators, Disease, Famine, Dehydration, Poaching, etc… are all possibilities that can seriously outweigh a wild animal’s life span. In captivity these possibilities are greatly reduced. In other perspectives we see issues that are not related to wild deaths. Captive issues seem to be more of an ignorant (blindly and directly of course). Incorrect diets, husbandry, environments, mineral depletion, over-heating, drowning, etc…
So anyways. Enough of the my displaying the issues or dialogue on animal keeping above.
Let’s begin with what climate is.
Climate is a measure of the average pattern of variation in temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind,precipitation, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological variables in a given region over long periods of time. Climate is different than weather, in that weather only describes the short-term conditions of these variables in a given region.
A region's climate is generated by the climate system, which has five components: atmosphere, hydrosphere,cryosphere, land surface, and biosphere.[1]
The climate of a location is affected by its latitude, terrain, and altitude, as well as nearby water bodies and their currents. Climates can be classified according to the average and the typical ranges of different variables, most commonly temperature and precipitation.
Above is cited from the following(merely for expedited reasons for this article)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate
Climate in relation to tortoises-A climate to a tortoise is the root in which you can blanket its care. That blanket of course has many detailed aspects to consider though. The climate, and knowledge of species being kept will dictate (at least it should) what temperatures you keep your animal at(day/night). These temperature exposures should also take into account seasons, rainfall, hibernation, aestivation, basking, non-basking, light exposure, water allowances, and overall space needed for whichever species you are going to obtain. Or whichever species you seek to better its habitat and care in captivity.
Climate is the root as described above. Roots however go deep, and they branch off into networks of more roots. In perspective you can allocate the climate in keeping a tortoise happy in an environment utilizing these conditions. But to fully apply a better understanding is to tap into the smaller roots.
Soils-Soils are the base for foundation in a climate or region. Different soils provide different flora, different minerals, different topography for which animals thrive in. Tortoises being terrestrial are constantly utilizing soils as its pathway in life. Different species in different climates are obviously exposed to many different types of soils. The soil being the foundation of a climate plays a role in many different ways what plants grow, what minerals those plants utilize or expel ounce eaten. From grasses to succulents, to bamboos is merely from the soils within a climate.
“Soil is the mixture of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids and a myriad of micro- and macro- organisms that can support plant life. It is a natural body that exists as part of the pedosphere and it performs four important functions: a medium for plant growth; water storage, supply and purification; modifier of the atmosphere; a habitat for organisms that take part in decomposition and habitat for other organisms.
Soil is considered the "skin of the earth" with interfaces between the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.[1] Soil consists of a solid phase (minerals & organic matter) as well as a porous phase that holds gases and water.[2][3][4] Accordingly, soils are often treated as a three-statesystem.[5]
Soil is the end product of the influence of the climate, relief (elevation, orientation, and slope of terrain), biotic activities (organisms), and parent materials (original minerals) acting over periods of time.[6] Soil continually undergoes development by way of numerous physical, chemical and biological processes, which include weathering with associated erosion.”
Cited-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soil

Soils in captivity-Many keepers use a basic approach to substrates for their tortoise they are keeping. I feel that the same application can be applied to mirroring the wild climate. Everything has its place in the wild. Everything serves its purpose. Soils to me are the foundations and can be building upon from there. Most keepers’ use a single soil or substrate. Substrates such as; mulch, dirt, or even sands, coconut fibers, or grass. The piece of the puzzle used is just a mere altering issue of only using a single part of many puzzle pieces. In climates soil systems have layers of systematic purposes. Soils retain moisture, minerals, and expel the moisture and minerals through its porus state. It feeds the foundations of tortoises with the minerals absorbed in the flora, in which are then eaten by the tortoise. So why do we use only one or two soil/substrate types for our animals in which they really need is a systemic soil system to hinge a proper microhabitat? In my opinion the soils are the base for keeping a tortoise in captivity properly. With proper soils you can sustain proper temperatures, proper humidity’s, and proper environment.
Temperatures-“A temperature is a numerical measure of hot or cold. Its measurement is by detection of heat radiation or particle velocity or kinetic energy, or by the bulk behavior of a thermometric material. It may be calibrated in any of various temperature scales, Celsius, Fahrenheit, Kelvin, etc. The fundamental physical definition of temperature is provided by thermodynamics.
Measurements with a small thermometer, or by detection of heat radiation, can show that the temperature of a body of material can vary from time to time and from place to place within it. For example, a lightning bolt can heat a small portion of the atmosphere hotter than the surface of the sun.[1] If changes happen too fast, or with too small a spacing, within a body, it may be impossible to define its temperature.”
Cited From this source for expedited reasons of this article.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperature

Temperatures in Captivity-Temperatures play a significant role in keeping a tortoise. Keeping a temperature correct seems to be one of the most important items to keepers. But in relation to soils, and proper environment you cannot sustain proper temperatures and humidity. Forcing heat, and moisture into an unsuitable environment for a tortoise is not the answer. The animal may live, eat, be active, and thrive for many years. But is it the correct way of keeping them? Thermoregulation is a part of a tortoises nature. They need to be able to retreat from heat, retreat form cold, retreat from too much moisture. Through this you have to accommodate a well-balanced captive environment. Many keepers just place the tortoise into a terrarium and keep it hot and one side and “cool” on the other, spray 2-3 times a day and blast lights over the top. This may be as close of a natural environmental regime that could create for the animal. Work yes it probably will. But for how long do we do this? How much constant heat do we blast to our tortoises? Do we not simulate mornings, and evenings, with dew, fog, or even a rainstorm? Tortoises and other animal’s alike found in differing climates go through cycles of nature. Cycles that is hinged off the environment in those areas. Cycles those keepers do not understand, nor mimic. We need to apply these cycles as best as we can to sustain a better keeping of these animals. Temperatures rise and fall naturally and never stay constant in a natural climate or habitat. So what makes us so certain we are keeping these tortoises in a perfect environment, if we utilize so many little of puzzle pieces?

Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. Water vapor is the gaseous state of water and is invisible.[1] Humidity indicates the likelihood of precipitation, dew, or fog. Higher humidity reduces the effectiveness of sweating in cooling the body by reducing the rate of evaporation of moisture from the skin. This effect is calculated in a heat index table or humidex, used during summer weather.
There are three main measurements of humidity: absolute, relative and specific. Absolute humidity is the water content of air.[2] Relative humidity, expressed as a percent, measures the current absolute humidity relative to the maximum for that temperature. Specific humidity is a ratio of the water vapor content of the mixture to the total air content on a mass basis.

Cited for expedited purposes for this article.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humidity
I STRONGLY SUGGEST GOING TO THE LINK AND GET A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF HUMIDITY. ITS QUITE FASCINATING AND APPLIES MANY FRUITS OF INFORMATION TO BETTER KEEPING.

Humidity in Captivity-Humidity is a very misunderstood part of keeping tortoises. Like the soils, climate, and temperatures. Humidity is a part of all aspects in keeping a proper micro climate or micro habitat for a tortoise. But many issues arise for keepers that are entirely misappropriated in utilizing humidity. You can see above from the cited definition of humidity. Three types of humidity are defined. How do we replicate humidity properly in our environments we keep our tortoise in? Well again this goes with proper research, and proper follow through of establishing an assimilated environment as close to the climate naturally found as possible. Just like temperatures, we provide a constant to our tortoises which are not natural. So why do we provide a constant humidity as well? I believe that the better results in recent years of proper growth in tortoises(and I use the term “proper” as a minimum standard of what typical people believe the tortoise should look like) have shown a less likely growth pattern of obscure scutes(pyramiding). But what difference does humidity play in something that does not grow from water(bone/keratin)? The reasons we are seeing a more naturalistic developed animal is the stability of a more suitable micro habitat. Humidity is only a part of that habitat or climate we strive to mimic perfectly. But why do we constantly allow these temperatures and humidity to remain constant? In utilizing these methods of replicated environmental elements, we are allowing the animals to thrive better. But still we must tweak it. Constants are not a suitable stage to allow any animal to be in. Especially in captivity.

Anyways blah blah blah on my part.

Synopsis-It is with all this text and depiction that I feel we as tortoise keepers must research more than we do. Too many shallow facts are played out in keeping tortoises. Too much is overlooked. To many constants are at play.


And here is some tort photos just because.

 

wellington

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Great thread Kelly. What I would love too see, are some suggestions on how the average tortoise "pet keeper" can do more microclimates in the too small of enclosure a lot of the "pet keepers" have. As much as we all would live to live where it's the best temps, weather, humidity, etc all the time for our tortoises, it's just not possible. As you know, with the Internet, tortoise are being house and kept all over the world now. Some in good enclosures, some in fair enclosures, some just running around the humans house. I believe if an easy, step by step instructions, care sheet could be provided, to make any enclosure to be as close as possible to the torts ideal environment, it could get accomplished much easier. Without it, most "pet keepers" as sad as it is, just don't want to put the time or effort in to do the research and work, or just don't care enough too do it. Heck, as you know, we approve threads all the time, that has been posted a thousand times. Members don't even want to do the search for their answer, easier to just ask. I know you don't house any tortoises in a too small enclosure, inside your house. However, for most that do, at least part time, what are a few suggestions, recommendations that you could give that would at least get them one or two steps closure to a natural environment?
 

FLINTUS

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I read the title of this, and thought 'thank you, thank you, thank you'. Microclimates are something I've been doing a lot of digging into recently. For instance, a study of k.erosa and k.homeana found them to spend 80% of their time in supposed 'microclimates'. These were usually 20-22 Celsius-which is about 70 in Fahrenheit. Compare this to what you might call the average for their whole range, maybe just over 25 Celsius?
There are many animals which are EXCLUSIVELY found in microclimates, which are similar to the actual climate before recent tectonic plate shifting, global warming etc. A fish in India is found in conditions that actually resemble something more similar to Madagascar, which was what India experienced before rapid tectonic shifting-see the plate tectonics thread I started on here. As such, it has remained the same for a very, very long time. One of the problems I do have with this though, what is the classification of a 'microclimate'. The actual stats, how much % in relative humidity, how many degrees different in temperature etc.?
 

wellington

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Another thought, question? In the beginning of your thread you stated "Do we really need a South African or North African species of tortoise to be under swamp like conditions all hours of their life span in captivity"? I don't know that most of us do this or promote this. Anyway, with the African species, leopards and sulcatas, it is promoted too put the torts outside when weather permits for a portion of the day. Promoting outside time when weather permits. This higher humidity is also for a year or so of their life and then hopefully living outside whenever possible. So, although the microclimate may not be the exact of their home lands, is this enough of a microclimate? Is this considered a microclimate in your thinking? Is giving a humid hide along with a couple different temp ranges, for the older torts, past the one or so age, a good microclimate for captivity? Yes, improvements could always be made, but isn't this a good start for those that do have to house their leopards or Sullies inside for a large part of the year?
 

Kapidolo Farms

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Great thread Kelly,

Microclimate The Biological Environment by Norman J. Rosenberg
ISBN 0-471-73615-5

This book was a text for a college course I took several years ago, it looks at points of view important to crop science for agriculture, but has been the foundation of many things that have influenced my captive animal keeping for many years.

There is no recipe for what to do, but it will give numerous knowledge tools to be a better microclimate manipulator.

Kelly hits on several very critical points in his OP, and soil and it's effect on an enclosure is a big deal. Soil is a living system, much like saltwater fish keepers have had to address the marine environment for aquaria, where the water itself is a living system, that you add fish to.

Live plants bring another dimension. It's almost like keeping the plants in an enclosure in best condition, and the tortoises are taken care of along with them. That climate on the ground and in the plants changes dramatically by the gas molecules distance from soil and leaf surface to even one or two inches away.

The Rosenberg book is still well used in current college courses both undergraduate and graduate.

Soil science as it's own stand alone interest can be acquired through any Ag extension service, it is more widely recognized as a factor for plants.

And as I have pointed out a few other times indoor horticulturists are way ahead of tortoise people on how to maintain and control indoor environments for a more applied narrative way to get the information.
 

mikeh

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Re: RE: Significant of Microclimates in Captivity

Will said:
Great thread Kelly,


Live plants bring another dimension. It's almost like keeping the plants in an enclosure in best condition, and the tortoises are taken care of along with them. That climate on the ground and in the plants changes dramatically by the gas molecules distance from soil and leaf surface to even one or two inches away.


And as I have pointed out a few other times indoor horticulturists are way ahead of tortoise people on how to maintain and control indoor environments for a more applied narrative way to get the information.

Just wanted to share how easy it is to incorporate some horticulture and microclimate into you indoor enclosure with T5HO uvb and grow tubes combination.

These weeds were dug out at the end of December from under the snow with soil and roots, placed in the enclosure. Within couple days they sprung back to life. This is what they look like two weeks later. Tortoise makes full use of them thru daily snacking, on days without meals, and burrowing in between for the night.

1389036010499.jpg 1389036025338.jpg 1389036108986.jpg
 
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Kapidolo Farms

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Plantain, the broadleaf weed not the banana. is a universally good food for any tortoises. That is what mikeh shows there just in case anyone wondered.



mikeh said:
Will said:
Great thread Kelly,


Live plants bring another dimension. It's almost like keeping the plants in an enclosure in best condition, and the tortoises are taken care of along with them. That climate on the ground and in the plants changes dramatically by the gas molecules distance from soil and leaf surface to even one or two inches away.


And as I have pointed out a few other times indoor horticulturists are way ahead of tortoise people on how to maintain and control indoor environments for a more applied narrative way to get the information.

Just wanted to share how easy it is to incorporate some horticulture and microclimate into you indoor enclosure with T5HO uvb and grow tubes combination.

These weeds were dug out at the end of December from under the snow with soil and roots, placed in the enclosure. Within couple days they sprung back to life. This is what they look like two weeks later. Tortoise makes full use of them thru daily snacking, on days without meals, and burrowing in between for the night.
 

tortadise

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The simple statement of Sulcata/leopards were just an example really. They are a most kept species though. The point(and my writing may be muddy or inconsistently coming across) but really the point is. If we as keepers dig a little deeper into the environments of the tortoises we choose. The easier it can be in keeping them. That being said, the more natural they will also grow. Their are many different methods to keep a tortoise. Many can achieve a similar result but in totally different time frames. For example I have seen radiata at 8-10 years old of reproduction size. But in reality that's not healthy to me. Size may play a role. But what many Dont see or even know of. Is age. Proper devolopment of follicles, established ova duct and hormones etc...
 

ulkal

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tortadise said:
The simple statement of Sulcata/leopards were just an example really. They are a most kept species though. The point(and my writing may be muddy or inconsistently coming across) but really the point is. If we as keepers dig a little deeper into the environments of the tortoises we choose. The easier it can be in keeping them. That being said, the more natural they will also grow. Their are many different methods to keep a tortoise. Many can achieve a similar result but in totally different time frames. For example I have seen radiata at 8-10 years old of reproduction size. But in reality that's not healthy to me. Size may play a role. But what many Dont see or even know of. Is age. Proper devolopment of follicles, established ova duct and hormones etc...

The first post is a great additional "care sheet" for beginners. I just lately started to research soil types and will still need some time to figure that out.

I see a problem on how to actually get reliable and exhaustive information on the microclimates of some species. Probably, planting your enclosure according to species as suggested is a good start?
_____________________________________________________
Great pics! There should be a rule that OPs have to include a minimum of 1 pic, just because :D
 

Kapidolo Farms

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I don't intend to grab Kelly's thread, but hope this will offer some POV that will bring some of this information forward in a way that is useful. First, what Kelly is doing is way advanced by TFO standards, this is not a "plug and play" or "out of a box" recipe thing he is talking about.

I think what Kelly is getting at is, "think for yourself", and find resources that exceed what these other ideologies "plug and play" and " out of the box" are in terms of tortoise husbandry.

I have interest in what Leopard tortoises endure at the limits of their dry environment tolerance so I found a paper on the livestock qualities of the arid environment of Botswana's Kalahari desert. The resource is for agriculture of cattle, sheep, etc. I found it by using a specialized search engine called 'pdf queen' and the terms "kalahari' AND 'ecology'. In the report for cattle and sheep farmers is a very good coverage of climate, soils, native vegetation, hydrology, etc. for all of Botswana.

I can cross reference this information with where in Botswana that leopard tortoises live, and that gives me a good indication of both macro and micro climates.

It just takes time fooling around on the internet. I had to do this kind of thing before there was an internet, so now it's super easy.
 

ulkal

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In case this point of my post needed clarification, with additional care sheet for beginners I meant that it is a great read for people who want to become tortoise owners in terms of what factors to consider when setting your tortoises up and engaging with your pet, that go beyond buying an MVB and buying a water dish. Not as a step-by-step manual for what to recreate in a 50 gallon tank. Therefore, its helpful to have those starting points when you want to know more and from where to further research that takes you beyond different care sheets :)
 
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