- According to researchers, the female sex organ had been “forgotten in contrast.”
- Scientists thought that snake sex was primarily about compulsion.
- The discovery has been well received in the field of snake science.
The long-held belief that female snakes lacked a sexual organ has been disproved by scientists’ discovery that snakes do possess clitorises.
The first accurate anatomical descriptions of female snake genitalia are provided by research that was published on Wednesday.
For many years, hemipenes, or snake penises, have been investigated. They have forked ends, and some of them have spikes.
But according to researchers, the female sex organ had been “forgotten in contrast.”
It was more likely that no one was truly looking for it than that it was difficult to find.
Scientists’ inability to locate female genitalia and people’s acceptance of the mislabeling of intersex snakes were all factors, according to lead researcher and doctorate candidate Megan Folwell.
The clitoris is located in a female snake’s tail in a report co-authored by her that was just published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B Journal.
On the underside of the tail, snakes have two distinct clitorises called hemiclitores that are separated by tissue. Researchers discovered that the double-walled organ contains neurons, collagen, and red blood cells similar to erectile tissue.
The material Ms. Folwell had read about snakes’ female sexual organs—that they were either absent or had been bred out through evolution—”just didn’t quite sit right with me,” she claimed—so she set out to find it.
She stated, “I know [the clitoris] is in a number of animals and it doesn’t make logical that it wouldn’t be in all snakes.
“I just had to look,” she added, “to see if this structure was there or if it’s just been missed.”
She began investigating a death adder and quickly discovered the clitoris, a heart-shaped organ located close to the snake’s smell glands used to attract mates.
There was no indication of the [penis] structures I have previously seen, but there was a noticeable double structure in the female that was significantly different from the surrounding tissue.
Her team then examined this in a number of snake species, including the carpet python, puff adder, and cantil viper, while dissecting nine different species in all. The size of the hemiclitores varied, but they were distinct.
New theories on snake sex, which might incorporate female stimulation and pleasure, are now possible thanks to the discovery.
According to Ms. Folwell, until recently, scientists thought that snake sex was primarily about compulsion and the male snake forcing the mating.
This was due to the fact that while mating, male snakes were often quite physically aggressive whereas female snakes were more “placid.”
With the discovery of the clitoris, however, she added, “we may now look more toward seduction and stimulation as another form of the female being more willing and inclined to populate with the male.”
It also sheds fresh insight on the notion of snake foreplay. Male snakes will frequently wrap around their partner’s tail, which contains the clitoris, and beat.
“There are many behaviours that could indicate they are there to entice the female,” says the researcher.
According to Ms. Folwell, the discovery has been well received in the field of snake science, with “some astonishment that it has gone unnoticed for so long, as warmly as some shock that it makes sense that it exists.”
She mentioned that the clitoris, which is less than a millimetre long and delicate in some snake species, is particularly small.
A common misconception was that female snakes’ hemipenes were smaller than those of male snakes, just like in monitor lizards. As a result, scientists had mistakenly labelled a hemipenes as a hemiclitores in some investigations of intersex snakes.
Associate Prof. Kate Sanders from the University of Adelaide, one of the other researchers working on the project, claimed that without Ms. Folwell’s “new perspective,” the finding would not have been made.
This discovery demonstrates the necessity of varied brains and diverse perspectives for the advancement of science.
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