Bumpy-shelled spur-thighed mediterranean tortoise

Post your pictures and any questions here of European tortoises e.g. Ibera Spur Thigh, Ibera Graeca, Marginated, Hermanns, Kleinmanni and we include the Horsfield tortoise. Also, do add pictures of Mediterranean tortoises you have seen in the wild.
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TortyPerson
Posts: 34
Joined: 15 Aug 2021, 11:06

Bumpy-shelled spur-thighed mediterranean tortoise

Post by TortyPerson » 01 Nov 2021, 15:32

Hello all,

More endless questions as we learn about our tortoise, thanks for your patience!

So 7 year old Gonzales is new to us, but he has had a chequered history and as a result has quite a bumpy shell. I have learnt a lot about pyramiding since we got him, but there are a few things I would like to check.

1. We don't want his shell humps to get any worse but I understand that most pyramiding develops in the first few years of life? Given that he is now 7, could his pyramiding get more pronounced if he were in the wrong conditions, or at his age, is it all done and dusted already with no prospect of worsening? He is about 22 cm SCL.

2. Obviously we hope he has a perfect home with us, a home in which no further pyramiding can occur! But there does not seem to be an exact science on how to prevent it apart from getting the light, heat and humidity right, letting them exercise and giving them the right food. Thanks to Nina's advice, I think his diet is pretty good nowadays (wild leaves and flowers with vit D3 and calcium powder), and he gets plenty of exercise - I can hear him clambering up his log pile as I type this. The UV light and heat are all compliant with the care sheet.

Re. the humidity, I understand that low humidity can contribute to pyramiding. He was in a highly humid environment at his previous owners, so I am guessing he developed his humps before they rescued him. We have him in a tortoise table with topsoil/sand substrate, there are plants, moss and water in there, and we give the table a thorough mist (mixing up the substrate as we mist) every couple of days. Do we need to do anything else for optimum humidity? I have read that some owners provide a humid hide for their tortoise, but I don't know if this is beneficial to mediterranean tortoises. I am concerned that the move from a highly humid environment to a less humid one might trigger more pyramiding (even if the new humidity level is more appropriate to a mediterranean tortoise)?

3. His tortoise table has an arched doorway in it which allows him to move from his sleeping/digging area to the eating/drinking/climbing/destroying-all-our-plants area. Sometimes the substrate builds up under the arch and so it becomes a bit of a tight squeeze to get through and he ends up grinding the top of his shell against the arch. Is this ok for him to do? Not painful or unhealthy in any way? Will it eventually wear down his bumps?!

Thanks for reading this very long post!

TP

TortyPerson
Posts: 34
Joined: 15 Aug 2021, 11:06

Re: Bumpy-shelled spur-thighed mediterranean tortoise

Post by TortyPerson » 01 Nov 2021, 15:36

Shell photos
[attachment=0]Screenshot_20211101-153526_Instagram.jpg[/attachment]
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CritterMama
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Joined: 21 Mar 2021, 13:43

Re: Bumpy-shelled spur-thighed mediterranean tortoise

Post by CritterMama » 01 Nov 2021, 16:47

Hello TortyPerson! So glad your tortoise has someone to take such good care of him now! I'm new at all this myself, but one question come to mind. Do you have a meter to take readings in your enclosure? I measure temperature and humidity regularly (more often when Scoot was new, less often now that he's more "used" :lol: ) He's a Western Hermann's, so I'm looking for humidity in the 70% range, temps in the 80°F (27°C) range during the day (lower at night). I mist the substrate with a hand mister at least twice a day to keep the humidity in that range. Your mileage may vary, of course! I recommend a combination meter that will read both humidity and temperature. They're pretty inexpensive. The plants definitely help keep the humidity up (and they are very happy to share their space)!

Good luck. I'm anxious to hear from the experts on your questions.
Critter Mama

One Husband, one Bearded Dragon, one Panther Chameleon, one Labrador Retriever, and now a baby Hermann's Tortoise!

TortyPerson
Posts: 34
Joined: 15 Aug 2021, 11:06

Re: Bumpy-shelled spur-thighed mediterranean tortoise

Post by TortyPerson » 01 Nov 2021, 17:13

Hi CritterMama,

Thanks for your reply! We do have an Exo Terra hygrometer on the wall of the table but as the hand been stuck at 60 since we got it, I don't trust it. Can you recommend a brand to go for? We have a thermometer gun for temperature.

TP

TortyPerson
Posts: 34
Joined: 15 Aug 2021, 11:06

Re: Bumpy-shelled spur-thighed mediterranean tortoise

Post by TortyPerson » 01 Nov 2021, 17:22

I forgot to say that we also soak him 30 mins a day. Ok thanks!

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Nina
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Re: Bumpy-shelled spur-thighed mediterranean tortoise

Post by Nina » 01 Nov 2021, 19:11

Hi TP,

I think Gonzales is going to be just fine with you. The whole issue of pyramiding is the subject of many arguments and debates and opposing views, and there are several factors that contribute. Humidity is one, but I don't think it is as large a factor as some people think. In the wild many of the spur thighs live in relatively hot and dry conditions, although they do like to burrow down under bushes, etc. at night, where the soil has a bit more moisture. But in general they don't come from very humid environments. Regarding your questions:

1. Yes, I'm afraid that as long as the shell is still growing the pyramiding could get worse. At 7 he still has some growing to do, so providing conditions where pyramiding is less likely is important. What you can ensure is that his growth from now on is smooth, and in time his original 'pyramiding will not look as prominent. The 'bumps' in pyramiding are not just nolrmal shell that has been deformed into a little pyramid, it is abnormal shell -- shell that is not dense enough and is instead porous like a sponge, and that makes it weak and therefore more liable to deform. There is a very interesting talk by Andy Highfield about humidity as a contributing factor in pyramiding, and you can see the text of that here: http://www.tortoisetrust.org/articles/pyramiding.html

2. Exercise, UVB light and the correct diet are all contributing factors too. Without enough UVB the tortoise can't absorb and utilize the calcium in its diet to support healthy bone and shell growth. The other big factor in pyramiding is diet, and I think this the most common area that we get wrong.

In the wild, tortoises tend to live in areas where food is often very scarce, and they are competing with mammals for what little vegetation is left in the middle of a hot, dry summer. So they go days with no food at all, and often walk long distances to find food. In captivity we present them with lovely big helpings of food every day, and this can be disastrous for them. The three big things to remember, in my view, are a) low protein; b) long fibre; and c) very slow growth.

I think slow growth is the most important thing. When tortoises grow quickly that puts stress on their calcium and D3 metabolisms and can result in bone and shell that is less dense than it should be. In my view, this is the main cause of pyramiding of tortoises in captivity. But there is an easy way to avoid this -- monitor food intake and aim for slow growth (gaining between 1g - 3g per month, on average, for a growing tortoise is what to aim for). That is just an average, and some months they will gain more and some less, but if they are consistently gaining more then cut down on the food you provide.

Long, coarse fibre is slowly digested and that in turn leads to slow growth. So don't just give the leaves of plants -- give the stems too (as long as they aren't completely woody and can't be eaten). Along with adding long fibres into the diet, it is best to avoid foods with starches and sugars because they can speed up digestion and you want to keep it slow.

Low protein. Some plants -- for example those in the legume (pea) family are rather high in protein, and that is why we don't recommend feeding them in any quantity.
Here is another really good article from the tortoise trust on diet. Note their observations of tortoises in the wild, and the need for slow growth etc.
(some nice photos of tortoises in their natural habitat too, including photos of what tortoise poos should look like -- a bit like a dryish bundle of fibres). http://www.tortoisetrust.org/articles/dietaryfibre.html

3. His arched doorway. It's probably not great for him to be constantly rubbing the top of his shell on the arch, but in one of those articles Andy mentions that in the wild there are lots of things (sand blowing about, branches, etc.) that rub against a tortoise's shell and this is a good thing! I would just be careful that if his shell gets scratched by the arch, and if you are keeping it very humid, then that is an ideal environment for bacteria and fungus to grow.

I hope that answers some of your questions. You apologised for a long post, and now I must give an even bigger apology for an even longer post! Slorry!

Nina

CritterMama
Posts: 32
Joined: 21 Mar 2021, 13:43

Re: Bumpy-shelled spur-thighed mediterranean tortoise

Post by CritterMama » 01 Nov 2021, 20:23

TortyPerson wrote:
> Hi CritterMama,
>
> Thanks for your reply! We do have an Exo Terra hygrometer on the wall of
> the table but as the hand been stuck at 60 since we got it, I don't trust
> it. Can you recommend a brand to go for? We have a thermometer gun for
> temperature.
>
> TP

I bought Rojuna Mini Hygrometer Thermometer with Cable Probe, 5-Pack (link below). These particular ones aren't available at the moment, but I'm sure you can find something like them. You can get in °C. These have both temp and humidity (but you can get them separately too). I have a temp gun too, but I recommend these little meters with the probes. You can get it right down at tortoise shell level (might have to prop it up on a block of wood or a stone). I think it's better to sample the air your guy's actually breathing down at his level. I measure at the warm end and also at the cool end (if you have that too, I'm not sure). I don't leave the meters in there - I sneak readings while he's asleep or soaking (BTW, good that you're soaking Gonzales every day!)

Thanks to Nina for weighing in with her (always) wonderful advice!


link to hygrometers: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08Y6 ... UTF8&psc=1
Critter Mama

One Husband, one Bearded Dragon, one Panther Chameleon, one Labrador Retriever, and now a baby Hermann's Tortoise!

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Nina
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Re: Bumpy-shelled spur-thighed mediterranean tortoise

Post by Nina » 01 Nov 2021, 21:53

Don't know if this will help or not. Crittermama lives in the USA so she linked to the American Amazon site, and TP is in Northern Ireland, so here is the UK Amazon site with Rojuna hygrometers, but I haven't checked to see if they are the same ones that Crittermama is recommending.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=rojuna+hyg ... nb_sb_noss

Nina

TortyPerson
Posts: 34
Joined: 15 Aug 2021, 11:06

Re: Bumpy-shelled spur-thighed mediterranean tortoise

Post by TortyPerson » 02 Nov 2021, 09:23

Thank you Nina for your in-depth answer and Critter Mama/Nina for the info on the hygrometer.

My head is spinning a bit after reading those articles you linked to, Nina :D - very interesting, thank you! I can see that we will need to take action to stop Gonzales from becoming even more camel-like. Unfortunately, I now have even more questions!! Will be grateful for any answers, thanks.

So we need to ensure his growth is slow, and it won't hurt to get his humidity right.

1. To ensure slow growth.

Question: We can definitely introduce more fibre as we don't currently give him plant stems. Unfortunately, he is not keen on trying new things so I'm wondering how to introduce them. Can we cut the stems up small to mix with his wild leaves?

Question: We currently feed him every day (although some days he eats it all and other days he only eats a bit) - should we feed less frequently to mimic a natural diet?

Question: We never give dried seeds etc - should we include the pre-alpin testudo feed in his diet also? I can tell you his poos look nothing like those photos - they are smooth and solid, not dry and flakey, and he poos every day.

Question: Re. avoiding starches and sugars - are flowers like dandelion high in sugar? I'm hoping not as, now that we have phased out the red pepper, strawberries and grapes that he was used to eating, dandelion flowers are the only food he has any passion for! Poor old Gonzales :D

2. To get the right humidity.

Question: Now I know what type of hygrometer to get, what humidity should I aim for? 70%? 60%? 40%?

Thanks again for reading and for answering my previous,

TP

CritterMama
Posts: 32
Joined: 21 Mar 2021, 13:43

Re: Bumpy-shelled spur-thighed mediterranean tortoise

Post by CritterMama » 02 Nov 2021, 15:00

Nina wrote:
> Don't know if this will help or not. Crittermama lives in the USA so she
> linked to the American Amazon site, and TP is in Northern Ireland, so here
> is the UK Amazon site with Rojuna hygrometers, but I haven't checked to see
> if they are the same ones that Crittermama is recommending.
> https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=rojuna+hyg ... nb_sb_noss
>
> Nina

Isn't that just like a Yank? :lol: I've *really* got to do better!

Just to clarify - it's the design of these little meters that I like, not necessarily the manufacturer per se. They seem to be a "commodity" item - if one mfg doesn't offer them any more, another one will. And I bought a 5-pack just in case I got a dud! 🧨

As far as flowers, my little one love-love-loves hibiscus flowers. He's small, so I only give him one petal at a time, but he chows down. Actually, I'd have to say he hasn't met a flower he didn't like! 😍 He also likes dandelion flowers (and leaves- yum!), and (when they're around) the flowers of Asters, Clovers (Trifolium spp.), Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), Wintercress ((Barbarea vulgaris), Gilliflower (Hesperis matronalis), Black Medick (Medicago lupulina), and Thyme. I've been exploring my backyard now for months - and I'm religious about checking with TTT Plant Database, so all of these are at least "Feed in Moderation", if not "Safe to Feed". I have some Calendula seedlings going and I'm going to try lavender next. My Grandma passed along her Green Thumb Gene - I think y'all say "Green Fingers"! I got those too! :)

[attachment=0]DSCN3441.JPG[/attachment]
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Critter Mama

One Husband, one Bearded Dragon, one Panther Chameleon, one Labrador Retriever, and now a baby Hermann's Tortoise!

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Nina
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Re: Bumpy-shelled spur-thighed mediterranean tortoise

Post by Nina » 02 Nov 2021, 16:03

Absolutely love that photo -- he must think he's landed in heaven, being presented with a flower that big!

Mine love hibiscus flowers too, but their absolute favorite is Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis). They love the flowers as well as the leaves, and mine seed themselves everywhere in my garden so I never have to worry about running out. I have a nice Hibiscus called 'Bluebird' and they wolf those flowers down when they get a chance.

I forgot that Americans say 'green thumb' and the Brits say 'green fingers'. There are so many little differences that are interesting. When I first moved here from the States, I didn't realise that the word 'quite' can be used differently in the two countries. In the States if you say 'he was quite intelligent', your voice emphasizes the word 'intelligent', and that sort of means he was very intelligent. But if you say 'He was quite intelligent' in the UK, your voice emphasizes the word 'quite' and it means he was intelligent, but not very intelligent'. Very subtle and I didn't find out about that until I'd lived here for quite a while. Someone told me that I'd been a bit unkind when I said someone's little girl was quite pretty, as I was saying that she was sort of halfway to being pretty. George Bernard Shaw supposedly said 'England and America are two countries divided by a common language'. :D

Nina

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