This video shows us what happens when turtles and tortoises have improper care. 

It was created by a turt/tort mailing list member a while back. Its difficult to watch but makes an incredibly important point about caring for our shelled friends. Its vital to do as much research as possible on our little ones and the proper care for their particular breeds. Its also important to spread as much knowledge as possible about the appropriate care to others. There is a ton of miss information out there (especially at pet stores.. but thats a rant for a different day) so it doesn’t hurt to pass along the info we owners have. This video is a sad reminder of what happens far too often when people don’t realize what they are getting into/what is required to care for our turtle and tortoise friends. 

On a personal Note: 

When Zoya first came into my life, I had no idea how to care for a tortoise. I had a small tank, some pamphlets I found at the pet store and some rabbit pellets for substrate. Also had a small UVB lamp and a small basking lamp. I set it up and hoped I was giving her the best housing possible. Well, after falling instantly in love with her, and being a researcher at the time, I wanted to know everything there was to know about tortoises. I read a million websites with lots of conflicting information, joined some message boards specific to Russian tortoises and turtles and torts in general, and two fantastic Yahoo mailing lists (that I recommend to everyone caring for a tortoises or turtle). 

It quickly became clear that I was doing it ALL WRONG. A glass tank isn’t the best for Russian tortoises (and most tortoises really) as they don’t get enough air flow and its hard to keep the proper temperature and humidity gradients. Torties are incredibly smart but they still can’t comprehend the idea of glass and will ram into the sides trying to get out not understanding why the air is hard. Lots of UVB is vital to their growth and metabolizing of calcium. They won’t develop properly without it. A UVB/Heat combo light is 1000 times better than a little UVB lamp and basking light (though this depends on your set up in some ways) having a ton more UVB and making it easier to keep a good gradient of 95 degrees at basking spot and 75 degrees in cool areas.. Pellets aren’t a good substrate since they’ll eat them and it leads to bowel issues and grows mold. Coconut Coir (comes in bricks or bags) is the best substrate and its cheaper and easier to keep moist, mixed with some play sand its perfect. 

There is a lot more where this came from. The “Tort Tools” link on the Tort-time site (or click here!) has a list of resources I found invaluable to making sure Zoya has the best care possible. Check them out! 

Nobel Prize Winning Tortoise Research!! (sort of…)

Last night Harvard University gave out the 21st annual Ig Nobel Prize. Whats that? Well, its a prize handed out by the group Improbable Research  that “collect[s] (and sometimes conduct) improbable research. We publish a magazine called the Annals of Improbable Research, and we administer the Ig Nobel Prizes.” Improbable research is given the succinct definition, by the group itself, as research that “makes people laugh and then think.” Personally I can’t really think of a better type of research (you know.. unless one can cure my MS and/or make Zoya live healthy and happy for the entirety of her, pre-defined by science, appropriate life span). 

Anyway, the Ig Nobel prize is presented annually by their editorial board which is comprised of, fantastically, several Nobel Prize winners and a convicted felon. HA! Why does this matter to Tort-Time readers you ask? Well first off, I think it should matter to everyone because academia needs a sense of humor and I’m glad to know its out there, and second because this years winner clearly appreciated tortoises as much as we do! These fine folks won by asking the question (and doing the research) “when your Red Foot tortoise yawns, is it contagious?”.

Anna Wilkinson, from the University of Lincoln, and colleagues took home the physiology prize for their study examing whether the red-footed tortoise exhibits contagious yawning. They worked hard for it, too. Wilkinson says it took about six months to train Alexandra, one of the tortoises, to yawn on command. Then they looked at whether six other tortoises yawned after she did. No dice. 

The results didn’t surprise the team. While animals from fish to birds to lions yawn, the only ones known to be susceptible to contagious yawning are humans and “higher primates.” The thinking is that the phenomenon is a result of empathy, or inferring how others are feeling. Wilkinson says the findings lend weight to this idea. “It suggests that a relatively high level mechanism may be controlling the behavior.”

So not to worry, your other torties are safe from your early risers yawns! And more importantly, lets stop blaming our torts for our yawns and lethargy. We can only blame this one on our need to stay up all night reading tumblr posts and looking at cute animal pictures online…. Or maybe we need our own UVB light now that the days are shorter. 

There were some pretty fabulous winners in other categories that aren’t so relevant here, but I’d check them out if you get a chance. 

Audubon Magazine

Improbable Research

Just TRY and tell me you don’t want to snuggle that Komodo Dragon. I think it has a career as a pick pocket.

Video is a follow up to the article on animals and playtime. This is footage collected by Dr. Burghard and fellow researchers looking at Reptiles, Fish, Invertebrates and Play behavior.

Playtime (via TheScientistLLC)

Even Turtles Need Recess

A researcher at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has published research identifying play behavior in less suspecting animals such as reptiles, fish, and even invertebrates. After observing the behaviour of a Nile soft shelled turtle named pigface, who had developed a penchant for basketball, Burghard had an “epiphany”. Play behavior did exist in animals otherwise thought to lack it, however the expectations of humans had not identified it as such on an academic level. He set out to further research this possibility, constructing a defenition of play using 5 criteria:

BURGHARDT’S FIVE CRITERIA FOR PLAY

1- Play is not fully functional in the form or context in which it is expressed.
2- Play is spontaneous, voluntary, and/or pleasurable, and is likely done for its own sake.
3- Play is incomplete, exaggerated, or precocious.
4- Play is repeated but not in exactly the same way every time, as are more serious behaviors.
5- Play is initiated when animals are well fed, healthy, and free from acute or chronic stressors.

Burghardt’s research illustrates how play is embedded in species’ biology, including in the brain. Play, as much of animals’ psychology including emotions, motivations, perceptions and intellect, is part of their evolutionary history and not just random, meaningless behavior, he said.

It may seem a bit obvious to those of us tort owners that have witnessed the antics of our shelled friends, but research surrounding the existence of play activity in reptiles specifically has been few and far between. The article, published in The Scientist (Vol 24, Issue 10, Pg 44), further examines the research presented by and spawning from Burghardt’s work. It delves into issues of anthropomorphizing, previous and current criticisms of the concept of play in these animals, as well as the contexts in which play can occur.

Critiques will abound I’m sure, myself included as I like to pick apart research, but its worth a read. I’m sure I’ll further dissect this article in my academic whining tumblr, but till then check out the article: Recess – The Scientist – Magazine of the Life Sciences http://www.the-scientist.com/2010/10/1/44/1/#ixzz13QhwLLym

(Source: ScienceDaily – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101019132045.htm via The Scientist)