Researchers find the snake’s clitoris

Newswise – An international team of researchers led by the University of Adelaide has provided the first anatomical description of the female snake clitoris in a unique study.

PhD student Megan Folwell from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences led the research.

“Across the animal kingdom, female genitalia are overlooked compared to their male counterparts,” Ms Folwell said.

“Our study contradicts the longstanding assumption that the clitoris (hemiclitores) is either absent or non-functional in snakes.”

The research involved examining female genitalia in adult snake specimens from nine species compared to adult and juvenile male snake genitalia.

Associate Professor Kate Sanders, School of Biological Sciences, University of Adelaide, said: “We found that the snake’s heart-shaped hemiliters are composed of nerves and red blood cells that line up with corpora cavernosa – suggesting that they swell during mating and be stimulated. This is important because it is often assumed that snake mating involves coercion of the female—not seduction.”

“Through our research, we have developed correct anatomical descriptions and designations of the female genitalia of snakes. We can apply our findings to better understand systematics, reproductive evolution, and ecology in snake-like reptiles like lizards.”

The study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B Journal.

“We are proud to contribute to this research, especially as female genitalia are unfortunately still taboo in all species,” Ms Folwell said.

“This discovery shows how science needs different thinkers with different ideas to move forward.”Associate Professor Kate Sanders from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences.

Associate Professor Sanders added that the research would not have happened without Ms. Folwell’s new perspective on genital evolution.

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“This discovery shows how science needs different thinkers with different ideas to move forward,” she said.

Among the snakes studied were the Acanthophis antarcticus (also known as Death Adder), Pseudechis colleti, Pseudechis weigeli, and Pseudonaja ingrami (comes from different parts of Australia), the Agkistrodon bilineatus (native to Mexico and Central America to Honduras), Bitis arietans (native of semiarid regions of Africa and Arabia), Helicops polylepis (out Estación Biologica Madre Selva, Peru), Lamprople is abnormal (from Los Brisas del Mogoton, Nicaragua), and Morelia spilota (native to Australia, New Guinea (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea), Bismarck Archipelago and the Northern Solomon Islands.)

Also contributing to this research were Holyoake College in Massachsuets, the School of Agriculture at La Trobe University, the South Australian Museum and Museum of Ecology, and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan.

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