Female snakes have clitorises, scientists first detailed in a study of the animal’s sex organs.
Scientists say previous research had mistaken the organs for scent glands or underdeveloped versions of penises, in a study that criticized the relatively limited research on female sex organs.
In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers found that snakes have two individual clitorises – hemiclitoria – separated by tissue and hidden by skin on the underside of their tails.
“Female genitalia are significantly neglected compared to their male counterparts, limiting our understanding of sexual reproduction across vertebrate lineages,” the study authors wrote.
Male snakes and lizards are known to have hemipenes, a pair of penises that are everted out of the body during reproduction. In many species, the hemipenis are covered with spines or hooks.
The study’s lead author and a PhD student at the University of Adelaide, Megan Folwell, said “a huge taboo around female genitalia” was a potential factor in why snake clitorises had not been described. Before. “I think it’s a combination of not knowing what to look for and not wanting it,” she said.
“Trying to find it isn’t always the easiest thing: some are extremely small,” Folwell said. First he dissected the clitoris into a death adder, in which the organ forms a triangular shape “like a heart”.
“I was lucky that the death adder had a reasonably prominent hemiclitor,” Folwell said.
The study suggests that sex organs “have functional significance in mating” in snakes. While more research into snake behavior is needed, Folwell said the team theorized that the hemiclitoria “might provide some kind of stimulation signaling for vaginal relaxation and lubrication, which would aid the female in copulation potentially preventing the damage caused by by those big hooks and hemipenal spines during mating.” .
“It could also signal the ovaries to ovulate and the oviduct to potentially prepare for sperm storage,” she added.
The researchers went on to dissect 10 snakes from nine species, including the carpet python, puff adder and Mexican moccasin.
“Some of the clitorises are quite muscular and large — let’s say in pit vipers — but then they’re really thin and elongated and small in some other snakes,” said Dr. Jenna Crowe-Riddell, study co-author and postdoctoral researcher in neuroecology at University La Trobe. Sizes ranged from less than a millimeter to seven millimeters.
The study found that the hemiclitoria consist of erectile tissue that is likely engorged with blood, as well as nerve bundles that “may be indicative of tactile sensitivity, similar to the mammalian clitoris.”
“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 it be please?” said Crowe-Riddel. “I think these questions are worth opening up to snakes.”
The study comes after a research abstract presented in the US 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 it reportedly came from research conducted on cows.
– with the AFP