Malti Explains Redfooted Tortoises: Pyramiding

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While it is true that the technical term “pyramiding” sounds like it refers to the mysterious great pyramids in Egypt, in this particular case it refers to the shape of a turtle or tortoise shell under some very particular conditions.

Unfortunately, these conditions are not ideal ones for shell formation. So the term “pyramiding” actually describes a certain way that the shell will grow if some daily habitat and nutrient requirements are consistently not being met.

Pyramiding is exceptionally common in domestic captive turtles and tortoises but virtually non-existent among wild shelled beings. It is nearly always the result of naive newbie owner ignorance, although occasionally it happens due to conscious neglect or even abuse.

In Malti’s case, newbie ignorance was definitely the cause for her shell starting to pyramid.

In this previous post, I talked about the horrific experience of getting bad advice from a veterinarian that wasn’t really trained to care for exotic species like tropical tortoises (even though the vet practice claimed to be an exotic animal practice).

As a result of trusting the guidance and advice I received there, Malti did not receive sufficient ultraviolet spectrum light or calcium or Vitamin D or humidity for her young baby shell to develop properly.

I don’t think I will ever not blame myself for this, no matter that I now realize I was just following “doctors orders.” Ultimately, she is my tortoise, and whether she thrives or dies is up to me.

However, I can say with great relief and gratitude that Malti has never once seemed to a) notice her shell deformity, or b) hold it against me, which has made it a bit easier to pick myself up and keep on keeping on as her mama from here forward.

I am also grateful to report that, lately, her wonderful vet for the last two years feels like some of her shell pyramiding issues are beginning to resolve themselves, especially towards the outermost edges of her shell.

In fact, her vet tells me that, while her shell will likely never be totally “normal,” it is looking better and better every time she sees Malti!


The raised “bumpy” looking portions on the top of Malti’s shell is where the pyramiding happened earlier in her life. This is what we are doing our best to correct now!
For contrast, notice how smooth and even Bruce’s shell is….his own wild box turtle wisdom made sure he got all of his light, humidity and nutrient needs met when he was growing up!

And remember…..

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Published by Shannon Cutts

Animal sensitive and intuitive with Animal Love Languages. Parrot, tortoise and box turtle mama. Dachshund auntie.

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