⎈ Cleopatra is a teenager who seems pretty happy with her bright, new red coat. What’s unusual is that Cleo is a leopard tortoise! Also, her coat was 3D printed from a corn-based polylactate polymer by student designers at Colorado Technical University. No, this isn’t a new challenge on Project Runway, although the coat does stylishly drape over Cleo’s shell. It’s actually a 600 hour labor of love that will hopefully let Cleo enjoy a long (80+ years), tortoise life.
⎈ Tortoises in the wild have smooth and convex shells. Unfortunately, when bred in captivity, tortoise shells grow in raised bumps known as pyramiding. When Cleo horsed around with her tortoise friends, the deformed shell wore through in spots, making her susceptible to bacteria and other infections. Fortunately, her red coat is temporary and her shell is expected to heal in a few years.
⎈ Scientists are not sure what causes pyramiding. Too much dietary protein (Cleo is a herbivore) is one culprit. Not enough bone calcium is another. One study showed that raising the humidity helped. Until we solve the problem or stop breeding tortoises in captivity, we have prosthetics -not just for humans, but for our four legged friends too.
News Story: http://goo.gl/qtZw7V
Ref: Influence of environmental humidity and dietary protein on pyramidal growth of carapaces in African spurred tortoises (Geochelone sulcata) (2003). C. S. Wiesner andC. Iben. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition. Volume 87, pages 66–74