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Snakes have clitoris: scientists have removed a ‘big taboo around the female genitalia’ | snakes

Female snakes have clitoris, scientists have detailed for the first time in a study of the animal’s genitalia.

Previous research has mistaken the organs as scent glands or less developed versions of the penis, scientists say, in a study that criticizes the relatively limited research on female genitalia.

In a study published in the journal Papers of the Royal Society BThe researchers found that snakes have two individual clitoris, separated by tissue and hidden by the skin under the tail.

“Female genitalia are remarkably neglected compared to their male counterparts, limiting our understanding of sexual reproduction among vertebrate lineages,” the study authors write.

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

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

hemiclitors of the death adder
Dissection showing the hemiclitors of a death adder. Photo: La Trobe University

“It’s not always easy trying to find it — some of it is very small,” Folwell said. He first dissected the clitoris in the death viper, where the organ formed a “heart-like” triangular shape.

“I was lucky that the death rattlesnake had pretty prominent hemiclitors,” Folwell said.

The study suggests that the genitalia in snakes “have functional importance in mating.” Although more research is needed on the snakes’ behavior, Folwell said the team’s hemiclitors may “provide some sort of stimulatory signal for vaginal relaxation and lubrication, which would help the female copulate by avoiding damage to the large hemipene hooks and barbs during mating.” .

“It may also signal the ovaries to prepare for ovulation and the fallopian tube to potentially store sperm,” he said.

The researchers went on to study 10 snakes from nine species, including the carpet python, puff adder and Mexican moccasin.

Dr Jenna Crowe-Riddell, co-author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in neuroecology, said: “Some clitoris are quite muscular and large – for example in vipers – but then they are really thin and elongated and small in some other snakes.” La Trobe University. The sizes ranged from one millimeter to seven millimeters.

The study found that hemiclitors are composed of erectile tissue that can swell with blood, as well as bundles of nerves that “may be indicative of tactile sensitivity similar to the mammalian clitoris.”

“Now that we know it’s here, we know what it looks like, we know it’s erectile tissue with nerves — we can’t help but think: Why not have it be for pleasure?” Crowe-Riddell said. “I think it’s worth opening up these questions for snakes.”

The research follows a research summary presented in the United States earlier this year that found the human clitoris has 9,850 to 1,100 nerve fibers, about 20% more than the previously widely reported 8,000 nerve fibers from studies on cows. .

– with AFP

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