Friday, April 04, 2008

Spring doth creep on tiny tortoise feet

While the rest of the world celebrates the vernal equinox as the first day of spring, around here, the first day of spring is heralded by the first clement day one of the chaco tortoises scratches at the back door to be let outside - and chooses to stay outside because it isn't frickin' cold or raining.

This year, Baby Atlas (now about 25 years old) was the first to want to go outside. The chacos don't do much in the way of venturesome climbing (well, clamboring over rocks and hillocks and such), necessitating me to always pick them up and put them down, a sort of aerial tortoise transfer bypassing the step from the house to the back patio.

Four years ago, I slanted some old fence boards from the step to the patio, and "drove" them up and down it in the effort to get across to them that they could use it to walk up and down rather than wait for The Mommy Airlift Service (TMAS).
Last year, they finally got it, and Atlas, at least, remembers how to use it (well, to not freak out about the slant and the scary space in between the two boards)!

Atlas rambled around the patio for a while...

before heading off into the wilds of the weedy yard with the encroaching masses of honeysuckle.

In March, I was asked about a fleshy protrusion that had suddenly appeared--and was then withdrawn--from the back end of a sulcata tortoise heretofore believed to be female. I related the remarkable appearance and size of the male tortoise reproductive organ, and referred the tortoise mom to my article on Hemipenes. The problem with getting photos of them is that they tend to appear when there isn't a camera handy, and disappear by the time one risks breaking one's neck getting a camera to the scene.

Well, a few days later, not only did Atlas extrude his for the first time that I've seen (he's been with me for about 10 years), but he kept it out (Baby Exhibitionist, he is) long enough (no pun intended) for me to race to the other room and get back with my camera.

Oh! And those tiny tortoise feet? Here they are:

Spring's arrival requires confirmation, and thus was it confirmed yesterday when Treppie, my 14 year old (captive bred of captive bred parents) desert tortoise emerged from his hibernaculum (this year, under my bed) and trundled his way into the den, where he planted himself by my chair, awaiting TMAS to take him the rest of the way into the Iguana/Tortoise room. After warming up the rest of the day and night, he trundled into the kitchen this morning for a nice long drink, his first since last November.

While Treppie was sucking in his 3rd bowl of water, Mikey came down from his basking/lounging area, ready to start his morning with a poop, feed, and bath. Ah, yes, another sign of spring: males jousting for dominance at the trough! Because Treppie is just waking up from his long slumber, he wasn't thinking fast enough to do his usual trick: plant his body over the food bowl and continue drinking, thus assuring no one else can eat, even if he himself isn't eating at that time.

Mike, having been subjected to being shut out of the food bowl back when he was just a wee little thing when he first came to live with me, knows how to get even and take the offensive. First, you walk on the tortoise...

...and then stay there, making your point...

...and then add insult to injury by attempting to squash the tortoise while you eat.

Treppie uttered a few hisses, which bothered Mike not at all, so I intervened and separated them.

After taking a few bites and then stepping in the food to spread it around, Mike walked off to his bathroom to await TMBS (The Mommy Bath Service), and Treppie eventually resumed drinking.

Ah, Spring!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

That hemipene is huge for such a small tortoise! LOL I've seen a video of someone filming a redfoot tortoise humping a doll and that thing was huge, also! Great picture! I just showed my friend the picture.

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your lizard is SUCH a rascal! Poor turtle. I'm sure he gets his in his own time too.

7:38 PM  
Blogger IggySingh said...

GOOO MIKEY! i absolutely loved this post Melissa.
hope you are well.
p.s. Iggy sends you happy head bobs xxx

12:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOVE this one!
I haven't been able to check here for quite a while but now I happen to live in a "hot spot". Free WiFi ROCKS!!!
Mikey is just too awesome! I can't wait until my little guy is so big and personality filled! It will be interesting to see how he interacts with our housemates.
I now have pix on of my critters if you get tired of knitting in the near future. ;-)
BTW I think you should re-name the tortoise John. LOL!
Have a great day Melissa!

5:19 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Thanks for your article. I came across it because I saw my tortoise produce exactly that same fleshy protusion from its tail today. The vets have told me my tortoise is a girl (x rays show eggs apparently). Can i confirm then that your tortoise is a boy and the protrusion is his penis? I just want to double check before I take my tortoise back to the vet with lots of questions! As far as I know it is impossible for a female tortoise to show her reproductive organs to the world, so anything I've seen coming from the tail must be male organs? Thnks!

6:43 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Mine is indeed a boy.

Females can prolapse tissue, too, so a prolapse in and of itself is not gender specific. If what your tortoise extruded is that long flower-stalk thing, then maybe get a second opinion on the eggs, or get the tortoise into the vet while the tissue is prolapsed so the vet can see it first hand.

If the tortoise is a female and she is prolapsing, it could be that there is something stuck in there (egg, feces, foreign object) that is causing her to strain to push it out. That cause will need to be dealt with. If there is no apparently reason for the prolapse but it keeps happening, the vet will need to get it cleaned and pushed back, and do some stitches to try to keep the tissue from being pushed out again.

Good luck!

2:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Melissa, Thank you so much for this! Really helpful! Your blog is the only place I've found any information on reproductive organs in tortoises- there is such a lack of information! I'll take my tortoise into the vet again and see what they say. At the moment, whenever I see the 'protrusion' come out it goes in easily and almost immediately which makes me think more and more that 'she' is a boy! If you know of any other books/websites/good information sources on this then please let me know! Thanks so much for your help again- I have just emailed the vet to book an appointment!

8:49 AM  

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