No, I Didn’t Forget

Today we revisit an old story. I didn’t forget, you know. I’ve been completely slacking  building the suspense. Now I can share the secret.

Remember the Red-Footed Tortoise eggs?

 

Note the uniform color. This egg is an empty. Nothing but goo in here. We'll keep it until we are absolutely certain, but it's probably a dud.

Note the uniform color. This egg is an empty. Nothing but goo in here. We’ll keep it until we are absolutely certain, but it’s probably a dud.

These eggs were laid on Christmas eve. Lupita, the female, retained these eggs for a month longer than she should have. Much digging of test-nests and our addition of more substrate yielded nothing. When a female holds on to the eggs this long, her own health is at risk. On Christmas eve, the vets gave a dose of pitocin and some calcium to boost the efficacy of those egg-laying muscles. Within an hour, she had, in the words of the vet, pooped them out. Radiographs revealed she had managed to pass the lot, but the eggs were likely a write-off. We set them up in vermiculite and put them in the incubator anyway, just in case.

After a couple of months of incubation, candling (the egg version of an ultrasound) revealed this:

You're looking at a baby tortoise. An embryo. If I m not mistaken, its head is toward the left. I watched it move. It has months to go before it hatches, and I saw it wiggle. Mind = blown.

You’re looking at a baby tortoise. An embryo. If I m not mistaken, its head is toward the left. I watched it move. It has months to go before it hatches, and I saw it wiggle. Mind = blown.

Red-Footed Tortoises typically take 5 months to incubate, so it’s a lot of hurry up and wait. We check the incubator daily because we have SO many eggs from different species that the odds of finding a hatchling in one of the boxes on any given day is pretty good. That being said,  on May 1 I still wasn’t quite expecting to see this:

This? It's egg #3! That embryo up yonder is about to reveal itself!

This? It’s egg #3! That embryo up yonder is about to reveal itself!

I crack my hard boiled eggs the same way! The hatchling basically blew out of its eggshell like a four-legged Hulk. I have to admire the effort it made. All that work was done using the egg tooth on the end of its nose.

This clutch contained five eggs. Four of them hatched. I was pleased with the odds. The fifth egg had some dark speckles which often indicates death in the egg. In our department, though, we don’t throw eggs away until we know for certain there’s nothing living inside. So I continued to incubate. About a month later, that fifth, dark-speckled egg hatched! The offspring was significantly smaller than all of the others (about 25% smaller at hatching), but small doesn’t always mean it’s not viable. It is now two months old and is keeping up with its siblings just fine.

So ends my first endeavor with breeding non-Malagasy tortoises. It’s not rocket science by any means, but the more experience I gain in tortoise breeding, the better able I will be to help the global turtle and tortoise crisis in the future.

 

So have you been holding out on me, too? What juicy secrets have you been sitting on? Tell me!

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13 thoughts on “No, I Didn’t Forget

  1. So cool that you got to see that process from beginning to end! Great pictures of the eggs and turtles, really helped me to visualize your descriptions. Also, it is inspiring that you are doing your part to address an issue you care about (just noticed the turtle background on the blog). (:

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