Snakes Have Clitorises: Scientists Overcome ‘A Massive Taboo Around Female Genitals’ | snakes

Female snakes have clitorises, scientists have detailed for the first time in a study of the animal’s sexual organs.

The scientists say previous research had mistaken the organs for scent glands or underdeveloped versions of penises, in a study that criticized comparatively limited research on female sex organs.

In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society Bthe researchers found that snakes have two individual clitorises, hemiclitores, separated by tissue and hidden by skin on the underside of the tail.

“Female genitalia are conspicuously overlooked compared to their male counterparts, limiting our understanding of sexual reproduction in vertebrate lineages,” the study authors wrote.

Male snakes and lizards are known to have hemipenes, a pair of penises that evert out of the body during reproduction. In many species, the hemipenes are covered with spines or hooks.

The study’s lead author and a PhD student at the University of Adelaide, Megan Folwell, said “a massive taboo around female genitalia” was a potential factor why snake clitorises had not been described before. “I think it’s a combination of not knowing what to look for and not wanting,” she said.

Hemiclitores of a death adder
A dissection showing the hemiclitores of a death adder. Photography: La Trobe University

“Trying to find it isn’t always the easiest, some are extremely small,” Folwell said. He first dissected the clitoris in a death adder, in which the organ forms a triangle “like a heart”.

“I was lucky that the death adder had reasonably prominent hemiclitors,” Folwell said.

The study suggests that the sexual organs “have functional significance in mating” in snakes. Although more research on snake behavior is needed, Folwell said the team theorized that the hemiclithores “might provide some kind of stimulation signal for vaginal relaxation and lubrication, which would help the copulating female potentially prevent sexual intercourse.” damage from those big hemipene hooks and spines during mating.” .

“It could also be sending signals to the ovaries to ovulate and the oviduct to potentially prepare for sperm storage,” he added.

The researchers dissected 10 snakes from nine species, including the carpet python, puff adder and Mexican moccasin.

“Some of the clitoris are quite muscular and large, for example, in vipers, but then they are very thin, stretched out, and small in other snakes,” said Dr. Jenna Crowe-Riddell, study co-author and postdoctoral researcher in neuroecology at La Trobe University. Sizes ranged from less than a millimeter to seven millimeters.

The study found that the hemiclitoris are composed of erectile tissue that is likely to swell with blood, as well as nerve bundles that “may be indicative of tactile sensitivity, similar to the clitoris of mammals.”

“Now that we know this is here, we know what it looks like, we know there’s erectile tissue with nerves, we can’t help but think: why wouldn’t this be for pleasure?” Crowe-Riddell said. “I think those questions are worth opening up for snakes.”

The study comes after a research abstract released in the United States earlier this year said that the human clitoris has between 9,850 and 1,100 nerve fibers, about 20% more than the previously widely cited number of 8,000, which was supposedly It came from research done on cows. . .

– with AFP

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