The End Of Pyramiding

Tom

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I thought a lot about what to name this thread. I intend for it to go on for several years, so I had to pick something fitting. So be careful how you reply to this thread, as it will be read by many for a long time to come.

One way or another, the following will be one more nail in the coffin for pyramiding in our captive raised tortoises. Either these babies will grow smooth or they won't. If they do grow smooth then we will all know that humidity and hydration is the key. If they don't grow smooth, then we will know that there is more to it than just humidity and hydration and further experimentation will be necessary. It is my goal to end pyramiding forever. Credit must be given to Richard Fife as the one who put this idea in my head. This is his discovery. I'm only testing his theory here, in public view.

I will post pics here of all milestones and at least monthly, so that everyone can watch their growth. I'll use the same scale and tape measure on the same counter to keep it all consistent.

I'll be raising these new babies the same way, with the same diet, the same set-up, same temps, in the same room, on the same ranch, with the same outdoor sunning enclosures, the same supplements in the same quantities, as their parents, my older, pyramided ones. The only thing different will be humidity and hydration. They'll get daily warm water soaks, frequent carapace mistings, damp substrate, humid hide boxes and drinking water always available. Outdoors, their sunning/exercise enclosures will get a thorough wet down each time I put them in there.

This is Mr. Man. Pipped on 5-15-2010. He's still in the brood box absorbing the remainder of his yolk sac.
My digital caliper decided to stop working despite battery replacement so I'm having to estimate length using a tape measure. He's right around 5cm and 35 grams.





This is Dimple. He started trying to bust out of his shell on 5-12-2010. I helped him get through the leathery inner membrane on 5-14-2010 and he stuck his head out on 5-16-2010. He's also 5cm, but only 32 grams. He's much less active than Mr. Man at this point. He's also still absorbing his yolk sack.



Here they are together in the brood box with the lid removed. Room temp is 80-85. Their enclosure is ready for them, I'm just waiting for them to absorb the rest of their yolk sacks and start eating.
 

DeanS

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Tom...he's f**king gorgeous and I'm very curious how this experiment (and this thread) will turn out...and now I have to figure out whether to add my findings to this thread or your previous pyramiding thread...which will also be around forever;)
 
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Maggie Cummings

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Geeze Tom, I'm beginning to think you're a bit obsessed with this. :D

Don't forget that a good varied diet and lots of exercise are also involved in stopping or preventing pyramiding. Yes, humidity and hydration are important but on an equal basis with them is exercise and a good varied diet. I believe three things are necessary and all are equal...humidity, a good varied diet with mostly grasses and weeds leafs and things like that and a lot of exercise...
In the wild tortoises walk for miles daily looking for food. In captivity our tortoise don't have to look for food. I put off feeding them in the morning and watch them pace back and forth waiting for food. After they eat they go in a hide and sleep. So...I believe in holding off the food kind of forcing them to pace and get exercise. I also put all my inside animals outside at every given opportunity as sun is also involved here but I am not quite sure if it's needed as much as the other three...just my experience and opinion...
 

Tom

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maggie3fan said:
Geeze Tom, I'm beginning to think you're a bit obsessed with this. :D

Don't forget that a good varied diet and lots of exercise are also involved in stopping or preventing pyramiding. Yes, humidity and hydration are important but on an equal basis with them is exercise and a good varied diet. I believe three things are necessary and all are equal...humidity, a good varied diet with mostly grasses and weeds leafs and things like that and a lot of exercise...
In the wild tortoises walk for miles daily looking for food. In captivity our tortoise don't have to look for food. I put off feeding them in the morning and watch them pace back and forth waiting for food. After they eat they go in a hide and sleep. So...I believe in holding off the food kind of forcing them to pace and get exercise. I also put all my inside animals outside at every given opportunity as sun is also involved here but I am not quite sure if it's needed as much as the other three...just my experience and opinion...
Obsessed? Who, me?!

Thanks Maggie. While I wholeheartedly agree that good diet and exercise play very important roles in maintaining and raising a healthy tortoise, but I question how much they have to do with pyramiding for two reasons. Reason #1: I've personally seen sulcatas raised on a poor diet and/or in small inadequate cages that were totally smooth, presumably because they were in a very humid environment. Reason #2: I've seen lots and lot of totoises, like mine, that had a great diet, huge indoor and outdoor pens that they spent a lot of time walking around in, still pyramid. Presumably because they were intentionally, mistakenly, kept dry. I hear what you are saying; that it takes all three, but I've seen otherwise.

However, I think I'm going to have to take your word for it, because I am not ever going to raise a tortoise in a tiny cage with a poor diet to prove that one can be grown smooth under those conditions as long as there is adequate humidity. I have seen this done, and while I was happy to see smooth shells, I was not happy to see tortoises kept in such a manner. I tried to tactfully talk to these folks about a bigger cage and better diet, but I'm not sure it did any good.
 

DeanS

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Hey Tom...Are they going in your homemade 'rack system' that you showed in your 'other' thread?
 

terryo

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This is a post from Andy Highfield at Tortoise Trust after I said that I thought Pio was smooth because of all the humidity he grew up in.
Terry,

The diet you are using is excellent and I would not expect to see poor bone development or "pyramiding" on such a regime - regardless of environmental conditions.

On this topic of humidity affecting bone growth, there is NO serious scientific evidence for this whatsoever, and furthermore, the single piece of published "research" that those who promulgate such misinformation rely upon is deeply, deeply flawed. Let me put it this way. There are thousands of people (apparently) who believe that Adolph Hitler is still alive and was take to a secret base on the moon using flying saucers built by Nazi scientists ( ) They believe this passionately. Oh, and the moon is not airless - it has an atmosphere like Earth. NASA know this, but keep it secret so that "other countries" will not go there ( ). Everyone who disagrees is part of the great New World Order conspiracy or is simply a gullible fool. It is quite easy to get such nonsense accepted as fact, especially on the Internet where you have a lot of very vocal people spreading myths and "facts" they barely understand.

Fact: The biology of bone growth (and pathologies) is very well understood. Tortoises are no different than any other animal. The same rules apply.
Fact: Rapid growth is a key factor in all nutritionally related developmental bone pathologies.
Fact: Excess protein stimulates high growth rates.

If you control growth, and ensure adequate serum (blood) D3 and trace element levels the bone will develop correctly, at an optimum density. There will be no deformity. It cannot happen.

The whole "humidity" issue is a total red herring. It is unscientific, illogical, and unfortunately, leads many people to make fatal mistakes. Sadly, the good old Internet is the perfect place for such anti-science myths to spread like a nasty disease.

Andy
 

Tom

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DeanS said:
Hey Tom...Are they going in your homemade 'rack system' that you showed in your 'other' thread?
Yes, but since I'm only going to have two or three right now, I'm just going to put them all together and raise this batch the same as I always have, except for humidity. I've got some more coming and they will go in the other two tubs. One tub will have a heat pad instead of over head lighting and the other tub will get a heavy Mazuri diet something like 2-4 days a week. These initial two or three tortoises will show me what I need to know, but I want to do the others just to learn. Plus, its really cool to have more sulcatas around. It will also demonstrate, to a degree, that as long as they have humidity, they won't pyramid, even under a variety of conditions.
 

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terryo said:
This is a post from Andy Highfield at Tortoise Trust after I said that I thought Pio was smooth because of all the humidity he grew up in.
Terry,

The diet you are using is excellent and I would not expect to see poor bone development or "pyramiding" on such a regime - regardless of environmental conditions.

On this topic of humidity affecting bone growth, there is NO serious scientific evidence for this whatsoever, and furthermore, the single piece of published "research" that those who promulgate such misinformation rely upon is deeply, deeply flawed. Let me put it this way. There are thousands of people (apparently) who believe that Adolph Hitler is still alive and was take to a secret base on the moon using flying saucers built by Nazi scientists ( ) They believe this passionately. Oh, and the moon is not airless - it has an atmosphere like Earth. NASA know this, but keep it secret so that "other countries" will not go there ( ). Everyone who disagrees is part of the great New World Order conspiracy or is simply a gullible fool. It is quite easy to get such nonsense accepted as fact, especially on the Internet where you have a lot of very vocal people spreading myths and "facts" they barely understand.

Fact: The biology of bone growth (and pathologies) is very well understood. Tortoises are no different than any other animal. The same rules apply.
Fact: Rapid growth is a key factor in all nutritionally related developmental bone pathologies.
Fact: Excess protein stimulates high growth rates.

If you control growth, and ensure adequate serum (blood) D3 and trace element levels the bone will develop correctly, at an optimum density. There will be no deformity. It cannot happen.

The whole "humidity" issue is a total red herring. It is unscientific, illogical, and unfortunately, leads many people to make fatal mistakes. Sadly, the good old Internet is the perfect place for such anti-science myths to spread like a nasty disease.

Andy
My little sully was raised on spring mix and good calc+vit supplimentation. Yet he was severly hindered in his growth (much smaller than he should have been) and had very bad pyramiding.

He was kept in a 40gal glass aquarium with a hot basking bulb and a UVB tube light. There was just about zero humidity. He got exercise out of the tank regularly, spring mix for the main diet, and UVB. But raised as a hatchling with no thought to humidity.

So was he cronically dehydrated and that was the issue? Not sure. But I do know that now (for the last year) he has a much bigger water dish he can acually wade in, he has moist substrate and humid hides. And he has shown drastic improvements in his over all health - doubling in size and new growth is much healthier.
 

Tom

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terryo said:
This is a post from Andy Highfield at Tortoise Trust after I said that I thought Pio was smooth because of all the humidity he grew up in.
Terry,

The diet you are using is excellent and I would not expect to see poor bone development or "pyramiding" on such a regime - regardless of environmental conditions.

On this topic of humidity affecting bone growth, there is NO serious scientific evidence for this whatsoever, and furthermore, the single piece of published "research" that those who promulgate such misinformation rely upon is deeply, deeply flawed. Let me put it this way. There are thousands of people (apparently) who believe that Adolph Hitler is still alive and was take to a secret base on the moon using flying saucers built by Nazi scientists ( ) They believe this passionately. Oh, and the moon is not airless - it has an atmosphere like Earth. NASA know this, but keep it secret so that "other countries" will not go there ( ). Everyone who disagrees is part of the great New World Order conspiracy or is simply a gullible fool. It is quite easy to get such nonsense accepted as fact, especially on the Internet where you have a lot of very vocal people spreading myths and "facts" they barely understand.

Fact: The biology of bone growth (and pathologies) is very well understood. Tortoises are no different than any other animal. The same rules apply.
Fact: Rapid growth is a key factor in all nutritionally related developmental bone pathologies.
Fact: Excess protein stimulates high growth rates.

If you control growth, and ensure adequate serum (blood) D3 and trace element levels the bone will develop correctly, at an optimum density. There will be no deformity. It cannot happen.

The whole "humidity" issue is a total red herring. It is unscientific, illogical, and unfortunately, leads many people to make fatal mistakes. Sadly, the good old Internet is the perfect place for such anti-science myths to spread like a nasty disease.

Andy
Andy is wrong. At least for sulcatas. People like him cannot explain how my (and many other peoples) tortoises pyramided. My biggest 12 year old is only 40 lbs. I did not over feed. They did not experience rapid growth and they did not get excessive protein. They've had an excellent, varied diet with no animal protein and they were out in the Southern CA almost every day year round. I kept them indoors on cold days, but this was rarely ever for more than a few days in a row. If daily sunshine for several hours does not "ensure adequate serum (blood) D3", then what does? They got calcium and vitamin supplementation in moderation and their enclosure, both indoors and out were huge.

He says the same thing I used to say. I used to say until I kept getting pyramided tortoises time after time, following that advice. He disregards obvious evidence and the Austrian study was not flawed at all, much less deeply, deeply. Even if the Austrian study didn't exist, there is still the small matter of thousands of peoples personal experience. How come sulcatas raised outdoors in the Southern (humid) States tend to be smooth, while the ones raised in desert areas tend to be pyramided. This is pretty universal. I've seen it with my own eyes. What about Richard Fife in AZ. He couldn't raise a smooth one either until he discovered the humidity thing. He feeds his Mazuri and greens like a lot of people and his babies grow up consistently smooth.

Fact: I've raised dozens of tortoises of several species and they all pyramided, despite doing everything that people like Andy say ought to be done.
Fact: With my own eyes, I've seen people raising torts in direct conflict with what Andy says and they are totally smooth. I've only seen this in very humid areas. I've never seen this in arid areas.

In a few months time we will have the answer. If I'm wrong I will humbly eat my words and apologize.
 

CGKeith

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I have only had one Sulcata, as a foster for less than a year. So my experience and time frame are limited.
It was kept very warm and dry, but misted daily (direct on shell). Fed a mixture of items from my garden which is basically the Mediterranean seed mix along with Bermuda grass, grape leaves, hibiscus leaves and flowers and mulberry leaves.
Here are before and after pics to show growth.

 

Tom

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CGKeith said:
I have only had one Sulcata, as a foster for less than a year. So my experience and time frame are limited.
It was kept very warm and dry, but misted daily (direct on shell). Fed a mixture of items from my garden which is basically the Mediterranean seed mix along with Bermuda grass, grape leaves, hibiscus leaves and flowers and mulberry leaves.
Interesting that you should say this. I had a conversation with Richard Fife a couple of weeks ago and one of the things he told me about, was spraying the carapace. He felt like that alone would prevent pyramiding, but was not ready to go public with it, until he had done some more research on it.

Yours looks very young in the first pic. Do you know the source? Did the breeder keep it humid? It looks so perfectly smooth, that I'd expect it to be from Richard Fife. Do you know the age? I can only hope mine grow up that smooth.

Another thing that I've been trying to figure out is when, exactly, does pyramiding start. It seems to me that whatever pattern is established in the first few weeks will continue. Several breeders and experienced keepers have told me that if you can get them smooth to 4-6" they won't pyramid no matter what you do after that. By contrast, if they've already started pyramiding at a young age you pretty much can't stop it.

I'd love to know more about your set-up and climate conditions there. What substrate did you use for that fellow? Soaking routine? Water dish, or not? What size and type of enclosure? Sunshine, or not? UV bulbs, or not? Supplements, or not?

Sorry for all the questions, its just so rare to see a year old sulcata so smooth like that. He's got a pretty high dome too.

This has just given me a thought... We all refer to pyramiding as a raised scute. What if its not a raised scute, but a sunken valley between the scutes. If I looked at Daisy from the side and mentally brought all the valley's between her raised scutes up to the level of the tops of her pyramids she'd have a high dome just like that. Maybe pyramiding isn't the overgrowth of the center of the scute, but the UNDERGROWTH of the edges.

This has been one of my major obstacles in eradicating the scourge of pyramiding. No one, including me, seems to be able to really explain the exact mechanism behind it. Is it malformation of the underlying bone? Is it merely the upper keratinous layers? Both, in some combination? I'm left with trying to see what causes or prevents it. ALL the evidence (both scientific and anecdotal) I've seen points to humidity/moisture/hydration or the significant lack thereof.
 

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I know nothing about Sulcata's, and My Cherry Head is my first tortoise, so I have absolutely no experence with tortoises. I only know that for the past almost three years that I have Pio, the humidity in his enclosure has rarely gone under 80 degrees, but his substrate was never kept wet. I really got blasted over at TT for saying that he was smooth because of the high humidity.
 

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WOW, so the old " he grows to fast" theory is still around?
 

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AH's response to Terry's pyramiding solution is the reason I quit his forum. He has old fashioned ideas and refuses to listen to new theory. He is a closet member here on the forum, so we can now expect to have him come in and slap our hands.
 
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Maggie Cummings

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terryo said:
This is a post from Andy Highfield at Tortoise Trust after I said that I thought Pio was smooth because of all the humidity he grew up in.
Terry,

The diet you are using is excellent and I would not expect to see poor bone development or "pyramiding" on such a regime - regardless of environmental conditions.

On this topic of humidity affecting bone growth, there is NO serious scientific evidence for this whatsoever, and furthermore, the single piece of published "research" that those who promulgate such misinformation rely upon is deeply, deeply flawed. Let me put it this way. There are thousands of people (apparently) who believe that Adolph Hitler is still alive and was take to a secret base on the moon using flying saucers built by Nazi scientists ( ) They believe this passionately. Oh, and the moon is not airless - it has an atmosphere like Earth. NASA know this, but keep it secret so that "other countries" will not go there ( ). Everyone who disagrees is part of the great New World Order conspiracy or is simply a gullible fool. It is quite easy to get such nonsense accepted as fact, especially on the Internet where you have a lot of very vocal people spreading myths and "facts" they barely understand.

Fact: The biology of bone growth (and pathologies) is very well understood. Tortoises are no different than any other animal. The same rules apply.
Fact: Rapid growth is a key factor in all nutritionally related developmental bone pathologies.
Fact: Excess protein stimulates high growth rates.

If you control growth, and ensure adequate serum (blood) D3 and trace element levels the bone will develop correctly, at an optimum density. There will be no deformity. It cannot happen.

The whole "humidity" issue is a total red herring. It is unscientific, illogical, and unfortunately, leads many people to make fatal mistakes. Sadly, the good old Internet is the perfect place for such anti-science myths to spread like a nasty disease.

Andy
I spent many an afternoon on TT arguing with Mr. Highfield and others there about humidity and pyramiding and Sulcata. He humiliated me no matter what facts I showed him. The members of TT blindly follow him they are outright rude to most Americans and they also will tear apart any American who tries to show that Sulcata need humidity to prevent pyramiding. I ended up being banned for life.
Right now in Senegal the temp is 73 degrees with 88% humidity. Not only do Sulcata create humidity in their burrows the ambient air carries humidity for them and I use Senegal as an example as that covers a good part of their territory.
He will admit to not keeping any Sulcata, I have and do and I have researched humidity until I can't stand hearing the word. But...Sulcata need humidity to prevent pyramiding and soon it will be apparent to everyone and we will have been the front runners to that belief.
I am sure that if Mr. Highfield does appear to comment on this thread he will be treated with a respect he does not give to Americans when they broach the subject of humidity and Sulcata on TT.
 

Sigmar

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I hope i don't get chewed up and spit out by this group. I'm kinda questioning the humidity thing. Has anyone seen a wild caught specimen and how many to give a good comparison? Here is an interesting article about their homeland http://www.anapsid.org/sulcata.html I'm wondering if this problem exists in the wild. I also highly question calcium supplementation, especially when its easy to give it to them naturally, my vet tells me don't do it. yea I'm a complete noob when it comes to tortoises but some things are not yet adding up from all I've read and what common sense is telling me. For instance their natural habitat.
 

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Sigmar said:
I hope i don't get chewed up and spit out by this group. I'm kinda questioning the humidity thing. Has anyone seen a wild caught specimen and how many to give a good comparison? Here is an interesting article about their homeland http://www.anapsid.org/sulcata.html I'm wondering if this problem exists in the wild. I also highly question calcium supplementation, especially when its easy to give it to them naturally, my vet tells me don't do it. yea I'm a complete noob when it comes to tortoises but some things are not yet adding up from all I've read and what common sense is telling me. For instance their natural habitat.
Melissa Kaplan (creator of anapsid.org) is an amazing herpetologist and the reason I first got into tortoises- but, she hasn't been active in the reptile world in like 15 years, unless I am mistaken. I know a lot of her care sheets are sort of out-dated now.
 

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Great thread Tom! I predict your babies will be nice and smooth. Looking forward to seeing the next pictures.
 

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