Female snakes do have a clitoris, experts confirm
Un king cobra
Female snakes do have a clitoris, like many animal species, according to the first detailed study on the subject published on Wednesday. Experts believe that this organ has an essential role in the reproduction of these reptiles.
The female genitalia is conspicuously ignored in comparison to that of males, recalls the ;study published in Proceedings B of the Royal Society British (in English). A well-known bias in the study of the reproductive systems of most species, including humans.
In squamates, these animals renew their scaly skin by molting , the organ of the male monitor lizard held no secrets for zoologists. It is double, and called a hemipenis.
But the female of this lizard had to wait until 1995 to learn from a German herpetologist that she had a blood cell. a hemiclitoris, as Wolfgang Böhme baptized it.
This new study led by Megan Folwell, a doctoral student at the University of Adelaide, Australia, demonstrates that a similar organ is found in snakes.
Research had so far neglected the observation of this small tongue, measuring in millimeters in size, located under the skin of the animal's belly.
< p class="e-p">Scientific literature has confused it with male hemipenis or with scent glands.
When it was identified in lizards, it was even supposed to serve to stimulate the male organ…
Hard to find because of her small size, all the moreif you don't know where to look, Megan Holwell understands that she's been overlooked for a long time.
Without neglecting the fact that, according to her, the subject is a bit taboo, like everything to do with the female genitalia.
To find out for sure, the team of researchers from Australian and American universities dissected and scanned 10 adult specimens belonging to 9 species, such as the Carpet Python, the Puff Adder or the Mexican Moccasin. In other words, a sample of the four main lineages of existing snakes.
They clearly identified in all of them a small organ located in the tail of the females, consisting of two separate tongues of flesh in their length.
Measuring less than a millimeter or up to more than seven, the widest ones are found in viperidae.
Their erectile tissues, that is to say say likely to inflate with a blood supply, also have many nerve bundles, suggesting their stimulation could provide a sensory response to their owner, according to the study.
Their position near the female genital organ, in a place where the skin is thinner, would thus provide stimulation during mating, through copulatory behaviors such as intermingling of tails or overlapping.
And as a result, longer and more frequent intercourse, with ultimately greater chances of reproductive success. The umpteenth illustration, also in the snake, of an evolutionary ruse as described by the primatologist Frans de Waal.
Pleasure is without no doubt an important part of reproduction, according to Megan Holwell.
In the female snake, it may be that clitoral stimulation brings muscle relaxation, lubrication avoiding the damage that can cause the hemipenis with spines of the males.
To find out, and given the difficulty of studying the behavior of snakes that mate, usually discreetly, she focus on studying the neural circuits at work.