What is the physiology behind pyramiding?

nearpass

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Tom said:
Testudoresearch,
You have also added some significant pieces of the puzzle for me. For example, the info about the drying nature of our indoor heat bulbs. I knew it was bad, but I didn't know it was THAT bad. I have done some experiments with providing other heat sources with positive results and I've been in contact with some other people doing the same thing.

Obviously they cannot be housed outdoors year round in a place like New York, for example, so how do you think they ought to be housed when indoors?

In case you missed it above, THANK YOU for sharing your time and experience with us.

These are some points that really struck me, also, especially since I live in NY! I, too, had no idea how drying the lights that are recommended for us are! My tortoises are outside from the end of May through most of September, but what about the rest of the year?

Tom, what alternate light/heat sources have you been experimenting with?

Thank you, from me also, for a fascinating discussion.
 

Sulcata_Sandy

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tortadise said:
Sulcata_Sandy said:
Do you have normal radiographs for examples? Since I don't have access to a DEXA unit, just your average "analog" machine, I'd love to compare your findings with mine, I radiograph every tortoise that comes in, whether a rescue or for my personal collection.

Tom, if you lived up here, I'd radiograph all of yours! [SMILING FACE WITH SMILING EYES]

Wait...I lied...I've not xray'd Oliver...he's too enormous for our table, and I can't get the mAs high enough to blast thru that shell without causing a brown-out in western Oregon. LOL

Excellent, data, excellent comparative images. This is a greatly educational debate. Tom, I'm on board with you as well. You have carefully documented many years of hard work and have paid the price. Your recommendations and experience are highly valued.

You have to set it to bone and shoot one left and one right to achieve results. Soft tissue shots wont show what you need to look for.

Yah, that's the problem with an old machine. We can barely image giant breed dogs. We need a new unit, but our hospital is rural, and doesn't get the big business the city hospitals do to afford a new or even used digital. I can increase the KV to 128, but if the mAs is over 20 I get an error message and it won't fire. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

But I can get some nicely detailed shots of my small/medium tortoises. [SMILING FACE WITH SMILING EYES]

I have a newly acquired RF female, 11.5" who is WC. Her shell is as smooth as glass.
ImageUploadedByTortForum1387124052.122506.jpg

I plan to image her soon. I'm very interested to see her bone density compared to my other rescues.
 
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julietteq

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I live in NY! I, too, had no idea how drying the lights that are recommended for us are! My tortoises are outside from the end of May through most of September, but what about the rest of the year?

Tom, what alternate light/heat sources have you been experimenting with?

[/quote]

Yes, I would be very interested in hearing about alternating heat sources as well.
 

Tom

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Juliette and nearpass,

I don't want to sidetrack this excellent thread so I will do a more thorough thread elsewhere. Just a quick explanation though: I have done thermostat regulated Kane heat mats set on a timer with a florescent light bulb over the mat. It stays off all night and in the morning the bulb and heat mat kick on. The tortoises totally understood this and it worked fine.

In my outdoor night boxes, I switched from CHEs which get VERY hot in one small spot (I say "small spot" in relation to a large tortoise in a large box. Its all relative.), to radiant heat panels. They basically do the same thing as a CHE but that same heat is spread out over a larger area. They get hot, but they don't get hot enough to burn even if the animal touches it. They were designed for large constrictors in large indoor plastic cages. It is difficult to put something so high up that a 18' long snake can't reach it, so they had to make something that would get the job done, but not burn the animal if it touched the heating element.

More on this later...
 

Team Gomberg

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Sandy, will you share with us what you find on the smooth Redfoot?

TR, I also thank you for such detailed information. I, too will be curious to see what your housing recommendations are.
 

Testudoresearch

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Tom said:
For example, the info about the drying nature of our indoor heat bulbs. I knew it was bad, but I didn't know it was THAT bad.

Tom, thank you. I really appreciate your views on this.

Yes, these heatlamps. They bother me. It bothers me even more I used them for years myself without fully understanding what they could do. Here's just one test result that shows how drastic their effect can be. We started here with 70% RH in an open room. We placed a 100w MVB lamp at 50 cm above 'ground zero' then ran an extended on-off cycle test. 'Ground zero' is where your tortoise would sit. Right under it. The peaks are ambient... the 'troughs' are switched-on periods. Note how it falls almost immediately... and stays there (<20% in this test) before rising again when turned off. Then plummeting down again the next time it is tuned on.

baskinglamptestweb.jpg


I call that pretty drastic, and frankly - scary. I freely confess when we started getting that data, that was the last time I personally used a basking lamp like that. Thousands of keepers are subjecting their tortoises to this every day and have no idea. When you add in Frances Baines' incredibly valuable observations on the unfiltered IR-A spectrum, it gets even worse. No wonder we are seeing a virtual 'epidemic' of deformed animals.

Not only that.... but you can see from this IR Thermograpy image that I took during the same test just how the very top of the carapace OVER heats... yet the body remains too cold. The heat distribution (especially in a tortoise of reasonable mass) is absolutely terrible.

22clamp.jpg


At the same ambient background temperature (22C) this is the heat distribution pattern under natural sunlight, outdoors.

22cnatural.jpg


There is no comparison. It is completely different.....

Maybe this is why we see animals like these (each of which I know was raised indoors extensively, with reliance on overhead basking lamps)?

heatlampibera.jpg

avoidheatlamps.jpg

pyramid_sulcata.jpg

deformedmarginata.jpg

deformedpardalis.jpg


Thickened keratin (protective response to ultra-low humidity?), gross deformities... even deep tissue burn trauma from localised over-heating, while the body stays cold... disrupting thermoregulation...

Very worrying indeed.
 

julietteq

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I really feel this thread is fascinating and I really appreciate all of you spending so much time on educating us, but if you could also give us hands on tips how to improve our tortoises lives that would help so much!

Should we get rid of the heatlamps and use ambiant heat using Ceramic lamps, heating mats and heating panels? We could give them UV-B from specialized lights that do not emit heat (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B7P7LJU/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20 when it is bathtime maybe?
 

Yellow Turtle

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Testudoresearch said:
Thickened keratin (protective response to ultra-low humidity?), gross deformities... even deep tissue burn trauma from localised over-heating, while the body stays cold... disrupting thermoregulation...

I used this MVB lamp before, and just like you recorded, I also found the same low humidity (less than 30%) as soon as the light was on. That's the reason I used humidifier before stop to use the MVB completely.

I would like to assume that is the reason why a closed chamber would be better to use for indoor enclosure. It traps humidity inside and I don't think you will get those terrible 20% RH reading in there, even with MVB used as heating lamp.

So can you share us what kind of heating element you used to raise the balling smooth G. pardalis in page 3? You did mention the use of UVB tube and vitamin D to replace the poor natural UVB level there. But what about the heater, as it seemed that pardalis was mostly kept indoor all year?

Saying it again, but I'm still waiting eagerly for you to share your husbandry both indoor and outdoor to raise smooth tortoises.
 

ulkal

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AW: What is the physiology behind pyramiding?

this thread is great, thanks for sharing your experience, knowledge, sources and potential methodological approaches/errors. looking forward to many more posts and interesting questions. im actually taking notes :)
 

edwardbo

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Testtudoresearch,thank you for your patience. I apologize for the rudeness, ignorance,hostility and egos you have been met with ....with regard to lights/basking and temps; maybe good results can be had by "faking the turtle out" ,belly heat (for that core affect),good humidity( easily done)and LED lighting(not broiling /toasting the torts shell into deformity)toss in some UV, a decent diet and everything should be fine.your information distills into simplicity and common sense....your thoughts on the darkness of shell color ,short periods of gorging on high quality foods,good climate,bad climate and the torts good choices/poor choices ( I have boxies that I have to burry into hibernation,)are also going to be factually proven true. SO,could you"cure"pyramiding by grinding the shell down and adding moisture thus relieving the tugging on the "plastic "living tissue?providing the tort is still growing and nutritionally heathy....also how does a tort feel a gentle misting immediately ?....this has been the best read ever and if it doesn't qualify to be sticky I'll be shocked.(perhaps some editing to tidy it up a bit...)..Also, some of the know It alls are conspicuously absent ,good. We need people like you ,stay on my friend. Thank you again,
 

Testudoresearch

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julietteq said:
I really feel this thread is fascinating and I really appreciate all of you spending so much time on educating us, but if you could also give us hands on tips how to improve our tortoises lives that would help so much!

Should we get rid of the heatlamps and use ambiant heat using Ceramic lamps, heating mats and heating panels? We could give them UV-B from specialized lights that do not emit heat (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B7P7LJU/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20 when it is bathtime maybe?

I know it looks like we are just talking about problems... not answers, but I take the view that in order to provide reliable answers we absolutely must understand the nature of the problems first. Otherwise, we can come up with incomplete or misleading answers.

I understand the problems of keeping in colder climates. I did that myself for many years, and it was not easy. Not easy at all. My current general advice in respect of heat is this.

1) Try to use natural sunlight as much as possible. It is the best. No lamp gets close. It is also free. No electric bills. When I lived in a colder climate I made extensive use of plastic agricultural 'tunnels'. These provided a massive amount of solar gain over outdoor ambient at very low cost (I also note Richard Fife has used similar setups). You can create dry... tropical... anything in between. Surprisingly some useful UVB gets through too (it does not pass to the same degree through normal glass). These were my own semi-arid zones in a very wet, cold climate next to the Irish Sea.

Inside_polytunnel.jpg


Inside_polytunnel_2.jpg


CB_in_polytunnel.jpg


A lot of 'detail' features present there. Ability to burrow and bury. Fairly abrasive substrate (helps keep keratin thickness down), etc. I also had outdoor areas, also using a fairly stony substrate, so they could outside in good weather (CB T. hermanni here)

abrasive_substrate.jpg


If anyone thinks that substrate is too stony... no, it can be much more so in the wild.

wildstonysubstrate_1.jpg


wildstonysubstrate_2.jpg


Do not use substrates like these (pellets, woodchip). They are intensely hygroscopic and contribute to chronic dehydration. You can see it in these tortoises.

pellet_substrate.jpg


Go for a deep (as possible) sandy/natural substrate they can bury in.

2) I know this is not possible in all localities at all times of year. In those locations you are very likely forced to rely on indoor pens and some form of artificial heat/light. I now recommend fluorescent UVB tubes in those situations for light and UVB. For heat... try to reduce the differential between ambient and basking temperature during daytimes, say to 12C. Giving a 22C ambient and 34C basking zone (this is for Testudo and similar species). For heat, you need a gentle VERY WIDE BEAM SOURCE. Not a narrow 'hot spot'. Really, a large flood source at a distance, not a 'spot' close too. This can be achieved in various ways. The basking zone needs to provide EVEN HEAT over an area at least as large as the animal. Narrow, concentrated basking zones are a huge problem. I am in complete agreement with Frances on this. We used to talk about "basking spots" - it is better to think of "basking zones". Concerning ceramic heaters and heat 'pad' type elements. This is what Frances says "The non-light-emitting ceramic heater, or heat plate, or heat mats, etc.... These do not emit short-wavelength IR-A, but almost entirely long wavelength IR-C. Sunlight contains hardly any IR-C. But when sunlight warms the ground, the hot substrate re-radiates the heat in the form of IR-C. (Hold your hand just above sunlit rock and feel this type of radiant heat coming off it). But IR-C from above isn't normal"

We also know that heat pads from below are a major problem too! However, large emitters wall-mounted at an angle? Not perfect, but preferable, I think, to a super-concentrated "hot spot" that effectively cooks your tortoise. I am being far too simplistic here, but the principle holds.

3) Humidity. You do not want sub 40% humidity for extended periods. You WILL get that if you start with a normal room at, say, 50%, and then use heat lamps. In those circumstances, it can fall to around 10% by the tortoise. In the above test we stated with 70% and it fell to <20%. That is a disaster. Not only these keratin issues, but also chronic dehydration... bladder 'stones'... renal failure. I do not use ultra-high humidity environments at all. By that, I mean anything over 70% in my own case. I keep it around 45-60%. In a dry house over winter, a whole room (warm air type) humidifier helps a lot. I get very good results with this indeed, and have done on numerous species (I do use higher for tropical forest species, however - but not semiarid habitat tortoises). Here's a CB graeca raised on humidity in that range, back in the UK, when I lived there.

CB_graeca.jpg


That one was raised with a lot of 'indoor' time on the regime described here (diet included)... but basking lamp use was very restricted. I also used the plastic tunnel quite a lot. I realize that is probably not an option in an apartment or locality with really severe winters.

Diet. Critical. The diet should be designed to maximize healthy bone generation. This diet probably looks OK to most keepers... but it is not.

overfeeding.jpg


Too digestible. Too low in fiber. This kind of diet promotes rapid growth, especially if over-fed. The vast majority of keepers over-feed. Most of these species are seasonally cyclic feeders. Not every day. You could write a book on this topic alone (in fact, I did) - the 'Tortoise & Turtle Feeding Manual' back in 2000. It is now out of print but a new, updated edition is due out early 2014. Avoid fruits with semi-arid and desert species. People think they help hydration.... they also cause diarrhea, loose stools, and fluid loss. They also accelerate gut function and change gut pH. I use none at all. I use higher calcium ratios than most people recommend. We financed a study on wild T. kleinmanni diets in Israel a couple of years ago... and the calcium-phosphorus ratio was as high as 14:1. Here in Spain, the wild graeca diets are also in that range. Very high. Many folks seem to think 2:1 is adequate. I disagree. Fiber content needs to be extremely high. 30-40%. Most diets are below 20%. Full recent article on this.
(click link to read). This also shows food deprivation periods...

Yes - I do not feed every day if keeping tortoises indoors (which I do rarely these days). I give "off days". No extra light. No extra heat. No food. This slows growth up, and coincidentally reduces exposure to potentially damaging heat/light sources. They have "off days" in the wild too. Lots of them. More off days than on in some cases. Many keepers find this a difficult concept to accept...

That is just a brief summary, very incomplete, but includes the basic principles I have found to produce really healthy tortoises that are practically indistinguishable from wild specimens. Some of the animals raised on this regime are now producing 2nd generation offspring.

I have a very busy schedule this week, so have to leave it at that for the time being. I do hope you found this interesting. Thanks to all who contributed :)
 

edwardbo

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People,I think your trying to make tort keeping difficult, it's not complex ,it's a hobby for the most part, enjoy it!.... What could you be taking notes on ?....now breeding that rare,specialized species is a different story.......keep it simple stu....... w/much love,later!
 

FLINTUS

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This is an excellent subject. So basically we are saying to get rid of the old light beam style lamps, but as you said, there aren't many options. Just a thought, what about the poultry style bulbs, are they broader in their beam? Otherwise, perhaps this is something that Arcadia could look into as I know John has a strong interest in tortoises. With my guys, basking spots are not so essential, but lots of species desperately need them.
Btw, if you have time Andy I would be interested to hear your opinion on the kinixys growth which I mentioned earlier in the thread.
 

Team Gomberg

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Testudoresearch, if I had to recap your opinion in simple terms would I be accurate to say this:

You don't like the closed chambers and hot and humid method because you state the 80%-99% of constant RH is unnatural. You do think they benefit from the hydration offered by at least 40% RH.
The intense basking spots are a main contributor to drying out the carapace. The keratin thickens and pulls leading to the extreme pyramiding in captivity. Heat should be provided in zones over a greater area than the single localized spot.

You've given A LOT of information and if I'm trying to break it down to simple terms for understanding, then I'm sure others are as well.
I have a few things to ask or comment on but I want to see if I understood you correctly first.
 

DeanS

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edwardbo said:
People,I think your trying to make tort keeping difficult, it's not complex ,it's a hobby for the most part, enjoy it!

Interesting concept! I think the idea here is to simplify tortoise keeping. I don't see this as a hobby per se! It's more of a custodial responsibility we've chosen to take part in...and we (all) want to get it right! I did not criticize or downplay any of Andy's statements...and have no reason too! There is a great deal of logic and extensive research put into this thread...and I view it as one of the finest put out. We are ALL still learning to get it right! Keep it comin'
 

StarSapphire22

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I am loving this thread. Lots of very interesting (and useful!) information being put out there! Please keep it up! :)
 

Testudoresearch

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Team Gomberg said:
You don't like the closed chambers and hot and humid method because you state the 80%-99% of constant RH is unnatural. You do think they benefit from the hydration offered by at least 40% RH.
The intense basking spots are a main contributor to drying out the carapace. The keratin thickens and pulls leading to the extreme pyramiding in captivity. Heat should be provided in zones over a greater area than the single localized spot.

I really have to be brief in any replies this week as I have a chapter in a veterinary and animal welfare text to proof and deliver by Dec 22.... also other commitments.

For indoor maintenance I recommend aiming for ambient RH in the 50-60% range for most semi-arid habitat species (Testudo and relevant Geochelone - elegans, pardalis, radiata, sulcata, etc). This provides a 'safety net'. 40% is on the low side. Lower than I would recommend. 50-60% has also proven consistently safe and effective over a long period. Not only in terms of keratin hydration status, but for the prevention of general bodily dehydration.

I highly recommend using a suitable substrate of adequate depth. This is also extremely important as it permits natural burying behavior. This also plays a major role in the prevention of generalized dehydration and consequent bladder stone formation, renal problems. I have been going on about this for years. I gave a presentation on the subject back in the early 90's at symposium in California one time. I have used this method with all my CB animals for for a very long time. A more detailed summary is available online, here.

Many people use mister-sprayers. To maximize effectiveness do this last thing at night. After radiant heat sources have been off a while, and things have cooled right down. You do not have to saturate anything. Just a light mist. This most accurately replicates the early morning dew formation typical in many semi-arid/desert habitats. I think it also helps to rehydrate the keratin somewhat. In nature, this burns off rapidly just after sunrise. I did observe T. kleinmanni sipping at this dew by 'brushing' their noses against it some years back in Egypt.. also geckos doing the same thing.

I highly recommend fresh drinking water be available at all times in captivity. This is more than they (speaking of T. graeca here) get in the wild, however. We may get our last rain in May, then nothing until a thunderstorm in mid-August... and nothing more again until mid-September. Interesting side-note on natural history... if you get an overnight thunderstorm with rain in August, estivating tortoises emerge in large numbers to drink, and simultaneously 'flush' urates. Even at night - in the pitch dark. Yes, this is true nocturnal activity in Testudo. We have recorded this multiple times. We reported on it a couple of years ago. The first ever confirmed reports of this behaviour in this species in the wild as far as I am aware.

Highly concentrated, narrow beam basking sources are without a doubt in my mind seriously problematic from several perspectives. We do face the practical difficulty than an 'ideal' alternative is not yet readily available. So we are looking at a compromise in indoor settings. If using lamps do not use them at too close a range and use the widest beam spread possible. Investigate alternatives such as 'dark' IR sources - large area panel radiators, for example. I am actually running some tests on those at the moment. They have some promise. They do need to be used in combination with a separate UVB source, of course. The idea is to avoid localized surface over-heating (and drying) with poor deep tissue penetration. What we really need is a directional, but very wide area source, with a good IR spectrum... ideally with water-filtered IR-A... but this just does not exist yet in any accessible form. Bottom line: we do not have a fully satisfactory solution yet. A lot of work has been done on artificial UVB, but this problematic IR issue has been pretty much ignored. That needs to change.

What you must avoid is this situation. 100w basking lamp humidity RH effect... down to 14.8% in this instance.

Basking%20Lamp%20Centre.jpg


(that tiny peak you see there at exactly 11.00 am is surface evaporation seconds after the lamp is turned on... water molecules being driven off and out of your tortoise... then the levels drop through the floor and stay there until turned off)

and this...

range2.jpg


instead... this is what we should see (wild tortoise thermography research)

range.jpg


Incidentally... regarding feeding... this is a typical activity cycle of 'our' local Testudo graeca graeca.

January: Rare activity
February: Usually hibernating
March: Usually emerge mid-late March
April: Peak activity
May: Peak activity
June: Much less activity, possibly none
July: None
August: None (except in thunderstorm for very brief period)
September: Usually come out of estivation mid-September with thunderstorms, nests hatch.
October: Moderate activity
November: Moderate activity
December: Possibly some activity

Forced 365 day activity and feeding is also a huge problem with many species.
 

gtc

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Thank you Testudoresearch for sharing your knowledge. I have a greek tortoise, I live in northen Europe (cold climate), my tort lives mostly indoors and I am afraid I am doing everything you warn against:

1. 160W mvb with a basking temp of 100F on everyday
2. Feeding everyday
3. No off days regarding lights

I really hope you can give me some advice on the following:

1. Should I replace my mvb with a UVB tube + CHE (or heatmat)? Or is is enough to move the mvb higher up, reduce the basking temp to maybe 90-95C and keep if off some days?
2. How many days a week should I keep my mvb off? Once - twice a week?
3. How about feeding? Fresh greens maybe every other day?
 

Testudoresearch

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gtc said:
Thank you Testudoresearch for sharing your knowledge. I have a greek tortoise, I live in northen Europe (cold climate), my tort lives mostly indoors and I am afraid I am doing everything you warn against

I it is difficult that far north, but it can be done. There is some very good info on my friend Per-Anders Swedish Website.

He uses the 'days off' feeding/activity system, and employs a very good diet based on Agrob Pre/Pro Alpin. He captive breeds and his tortoises are really nice. There are also some keepers in Denmark using similar methods. Otto not only has done a lot of field research himself (specializing in Testudo marginata), but also has good examples and advice that is relevant for keepers in Northern Europe. His website is marginata.dk . There is good advice and housing ideas there... as with all of us, we are still learning more all the time, so I think maybe some of the lamp positions used there might be different now...

1. We are running some tests now and should have more data soon.

2. I give three days a week with 'off time' on average.

3. If using an diet indoors, Agrob Pre/Pro Alpin is really excellent as a base. High fibre, low protein, works very well. I do not know of a direct equivalent in the US, unfortunately. Available within the EU only, I believe.
 
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