- An international team of scientists has found that female snakes have clitorises.
- The researchers say previous research has mistaken the organs as scent glands or underdeveloped versions of penises.The study titled ‘First evidence of hemiclitores in snakes,’
- was published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.The study is the first complete description of the clitoris in female snakes.
The researchers found that snakes have two individual clitorises – hemiclitores – separated medially by connective tissue, forming a triangular structure that extends posteriorly.
The researchers led by Megan Folwell of the School of Biological Sciences, The University of Adelaide in Australia, say these histological features suggest the snake hemiclitores have functional significance in mating and definitively show that the hemiclitores are not underdeveloped hemipenes or scent glands, which have been erroneously indicated in other studies.
Our discovery supports that hemiclitores have been retained across squamates and provides preliminary evidence of differences in this structure among snake species, which can be used to further understand systematics, reproductive evolution and ecology across squamate reptiles,” she said.
The scientists concluded that the study opens fruitful avenues for research into genital development, function and evolution.
“Our discovery of likely functional snake hemiclitores implies greater morphological diversity of genitalia within squamates than previously described, from the evertable lizard hemiclitores and squamate hemipenes to the non-eversible snake hemiclitores.
Variation in the snake hemiclitores might prove to be correlated with courtship and mating behaviours and help us understand female choice.
“We suggest that the hemiclitores transduce sensation to the female snake during courtship and copulation, which might promote longer and more frequent mating leading to increased fertilisation success.
“Further investigation into the sensory features of snake hemiclitores and hemipenes are needed to determine potential tactile sensitivity. Comparative morphological investigations of hemiclitores and hemipenes within and among taxa would also provide insight into the possible coevolution of male and female genitalia,” they noted.