Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Agriculture - Animal Science


Animal Science


Mark S. Edwards


The influence of feeding juvenile female leopard tortoises (Geochelone pardalis, n=18) a commercially available, complete, extruded feed three (3) or seven days (7) per week on dry matter and digestible energy intake, apparent digestibility of dry matter, organic matter, gross energy and fiber fractions, animal body weight and measurements, digesta transit time, rate of passage, and indigestible fill was evaluated. Both feeding frequencies are commonly practiced with captive tortoises. When fed 7 compared to 3 days per week, dry matter and digestible energy intake was greater. Tortoises gained more g BW, but not when adjusted per kg initial BW. When fed 7 compared to 3 days per week, tortoises grew more in plastron width (PW) and carapace height (CH), but not midline straight carapace length (MSCL), and grew more in calculated shell volume (i.e., a calculated estimate of shell volume using MSCL, PW, and CH), with a higher calculated body condition index (BCI). Providing short fasts (i.e., feeding 3 compared to 7 days per week) may be useful in slowing tortoise growth when animals are provided food ad libitum. In general, ad libitum feeding, especially of a highly digestible extruded feed, is not recommended for captive juvenile G. pardalis, especially when offered food daily. With two data points (detected as outliers) removed due to low fecal output (and resulting unrealistically high apparent digestibility of all nutrients analyzed) of two animals when fed 3 days per week, apparent digestibility of cellulose in tortoises fed 7 (n=18) compared to 3 (n=16) days per week was lower, but no differences were detected in DM, OM, GE, or any other fiber fractions analyzed. Transit time (TT1) was shorter and indigestible fill was higher in tortoises (n=18) fed 7 compared to 3 days per week, regardless of percent Cr marker recovered. With four animals removed due to <50% Cr marker recovery, tortoises fed 7 compared to 3 days per week exhibited shorter mean retention time (RGIT), with no differences in digesta transit or indigestible fill. Longer digesta retention when food availability included short periods of fasting may have allowed tortoises to extract more energy from cellulose.