Natural hibernation sites

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Natural hibernation sites

Postby Tortoise Trust » Sat Nov 22, 2014 4:34 pm

As before, we still have some tortoises active....

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At the same time many others have dug right down.... these sites are not easy to find... after rain they totally disappear!

We know from measurements taken on other occasions, the tortoises will be slightly 'head down' no more than about 10cm deep. The interesting things is that they often choose essentially flat areas to excavate into...

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Well, I find it interesting, anyway... :lol:
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Re: Natural hibernation sites

Postby Bigjoe » Sat Nov 22, 2014 5:31 pm

Andy do you think there is any reason some Have dug down right next to small plants/ shrubs..
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Re: Natural hibernation sites

Postby Sandy » Sat Nov 22, 2014 5:45 pm

Bigjoe wrote:Andy do you think there is any reason some Have dug down right next to small plants/ shrubs..
Joe


If any of mine escaped and buried down outside, they were nearly always near plant roots. I presume a certain amount of moisture around them.
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Re: Natural hibernation sites

Postby Tracy33 » Sat Nov 22, 2014 7:26 pm

I wonder why some tortoises dig down more deeper then others . You expect them to all want the same thing , and yet they are so different . :?
Love the pics Andy . :lol:
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Re: Natural hibernation sites

Postby Tortoise Trust » Sun Nov 23, 2014 7:28 am

I think there are a number of reasons why digging around plant roots is preferred.

Firstly, it is easier to excavate than baked, solid, soil and it has more structure. Secondly, it's oxygen levels are marginally higher than in 'solid' earth. Also, I suspect that the plants above, which are frequently quite aromatic, may serve to 'mask' the presence of the tortoise from predators.

In winter, I doubt humidity is a motivating factor, but in summer (estivation) it certainly is. It is also interesting that we have noted that very, very often, the same scrape and used for overnight use may also become the hibernation site, or even the nesting site:

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The differences between individuals are quite extreme in some cases. One goes down... the others stay up, and vice-versa. I have not yet been able to correlate this with anything in particular. Not size, colour patterns, or even localities. It just seems they have differing "preferences". Of course, there are times when they are all down, or all up and active, it is at the 'changeover points' where individual behaviours vary such a lot.

I have been observing them for so long now (5 years continuously as of last week) that I have pretty good idea of what they are likely to be doing at any particular time, but then one goes and surprises you.....
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Re: Natural hibernation sites

Postby Bigjoe » Sun Nov 23, 2014 8:46 am

That's very interesting Andy if they are using plants as a cover to hide their odour,I can only imagine it wouldn't be that difficult to sniff out a Tortoise for a predator when they can be coverd in their own urine / feces at times.
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Re: Natural hibernation sites

Postby Tortoise Trust » Sun Nov 23, 2014 10:02 am

Bigjoe wrote: when they can be covered in their own urine / feces at times.
Joe


Can honestly say I have not seen that once in a wild tortoise in more than 30 years of observing them. Seen it very often in captive tortoises, however. Wild tortoises are very, very clean - apart from being covered in soil/mud when they emerge from being buried, of course, and that is gone within 48 hours. They are usually immaculate in terms of cleanliness in the natural habitat. Almost jewel-like.
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Re: Natural hibernation sites

Postby Bigjoe » Sun Nov 23, 2014 2:40 pm

I've had to clean up my two a few times when they have got a little messy,always when they have been in their tables..never outside in the enclosure,I guess this most come down to size of table and area they have to move in.
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Re: Natural hibernation sites

Postby Kaarina.rantala » Sun Nov 23, 2014 3:59 pm

Thanks Andy, fascinating to see your report from down under ;)
Digging under plants is interesting. Plants have drastic impact on the environment. Having poor soil is much worse than polluted soil: some animal will always be able to consume the pollutants and break them down, but a lifeless soil is really problematic. Plant roots are the core for a big community of microbes and small animals. They also pull in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen plus tap moisture. The ecosystem around the roots keeps the soil more porous. It may also be possible that the life around the roots gives the tortoise some hints about the weather on the ground?

As science finds out more and more about the importance of the ground ecosystem, I have started improving the store-bought topsoil with humus,dried plant matter, microbes, mycorrhizae etc.
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Re: Natural hibernation sites

Postby Tortoise Trust » Sun Nov 23, 2014 4:06 pm

It has been really warm and sunny here today... 23 ambient, tortoises easily able to get body temperatures up to 32-34C...

Yet, while some are active, basking, even feeding... others remain buried....

Very interesting stuff. Even when I go back over the temperature data (in some cases recorded every 60 seconds for months without a break, using data-loggers) it is hard to find any real correlation. I have a luminance data logger and I think I'll try that as well this year, though brightness levels are (to my eyes) still very good! To give a general idea of conditions, it is so warm right now we have a lot of people still going to the beach and swimming. Even the local naturist beach! :o :o :o

That is quite a good scientific measure of tortoise activity, by the way!!! If the naturist are on the beach, there is a 99.7% probability of tortoise activity :lol: :lol: :lol:
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