Variation in Growth and Potentially Associated Health Status in Hermann's and Spur-Thighed Tortoise (Testudo hermanni and Testudo graeca)
Article first published online: 30 JAN 2012
© 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Volume 31, Issue 6, pages 705–717, November/December 2012
How to Cite
Ritz, J., Clauss, M., Streich, W. J. and Hatt, J.-M. (2012), Variation in Growth and Potentially Associated Health Status in Hermann's and Spur-Thighed Tortoise (Testudo hermanni and Testudo graeca). Zoo Biol., 31: 705–717. doi: 10.1002/zoo.21002
- Issue published online: 3 DEC 2012
- Article first published online: 30 JAN 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 30 NOV 2011
- Manuscript Revised: 22 NOV 2011
- Manuscript Received: 28 SEP 2011
Captive reptiles often show higher growth rates than in the wild, possibly due to higher feeding intensity. Although health problems are usually linked to inappropriate diets, fast growth itself, such as triggered by appropriate diets fed in high amounts, has traditionally also been considered unfavorable for tortoises. We document growth rates (based on age and mass) from private Testudo hermanni and T. graeca breeders, which are generally higher than those reported for free-ranging specimens, but show enormous variation. Tortoise patients presented to an exotics clinic also covered the whole growth rate spectrum. To test whether fast growth was associated with diseases, the age–body mass relationship of these patients was tested, in a retrospective evaluation, for additional influence factors, such as dietary history and occurrence of certain diet and growth-related diseases. No indication was found that animals particularly heavy for their age were more prone to diet/growth-related disorders. In general, tortoises fed diets with meat/grain were heavier for their age than tortoises fed more appropriate diets; dietary history was not related to a particular disease. The results suggest the age–body mass relationship may not be suitable for testing effects of fast growth; an age–body length relationship would be more appropriate. Animals presented for a diet/growth-related disorder were younger than animals presented for other reasons; there was a significant negative correlation between the severity of pyramiding and age, suggesting that growth-related disorders may well limit the life expectancy of tortoises. Controlled clinical studies are required to fully test this hypothesis. Zoo Biol. 31:705-717, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.