CNN — Scientists have discovered that female snakes have a clitoris — a previously overlooked or dismissed part of their anatomy (and that of many other animals), according to a new study.
Lead study author Megan Folwell, a doctoral student at the University of Adelaide in Australia, said:
“It’s quite a taboo area. Female genitalia is not an easy subject to bring up sometimes and I think people were happy saying ‘it doesn’t exist. There’s no need for snake to have one.’”
Folwell decided to investigate the female genitalia of snakes after noticing that very little research had been done on the topic.
She found the organ varied among the types of snakes, taking up most of the anterior tail region in some, according to the study published Wednesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
“People weren’t looking, and it was hard to find. It’s not the easiest structure to see in some (snake) species,” she explained, adding that some researchers had previously confused the clitorises in snakes for scent glands.
This work has definitively cleared up the question of whether the clitoris exists in snakes and also offers some context on what purpose it potentially serves, said Kurt Schwenk, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut. Schwenk was not involved in the research.
The role of female genitalia
In conducting the research, Folwell carefully dissected the genitalia of nine different species, including the common death adder, that represented four main snake families, Elapid, Viperid, Pythonidae and Colubridae.
She found the sexual organ in all the snakes she examined in the study.
Officially known as a hemiclitoris because it has two distinct parts, the organ appeared to be shaped “like two teardrops that formed a love heart structure” …