A few weeks ago, scientists have discovered that female snakes *do have* clitorises. I repeat, the clitorises in snakes are found FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.
The discovery shattered a *centuries-long* assumption that females, wait for it… didn’t have sexual organs.
So, until now, no one had ever taken the time to look for a snake’s clitoris.
Evolutionary biologist Megan Folwell and genital morphologist Patricia Brennan went on to find similar structures across a range of (snake) species.
And did they find it. On December 14, they published the first complete and definitive description of snake clitorises.
Oh, we know about snake penises
On the opposite side of this sex spectrum, though, male snake genitalia — hemipenes — has been very well-documented.
Over 200 years of research on this matter brought us knowledge about different shapes, sizes, and ornaments of hemipenes across a variety of species.
In its most found final form, hemipenes is basically a structure of two-pronged penises tucked under the base of the male snake tail.
And yet, despite over two centuries’ worth of data on hemipenis, nobody had described an equivalent structure in female snakes.
The lack of evidence caused some scientists to speculate that snake hemiclitorises might not exist at all — or that, if they did, they had been reduced to evolutionary nothings.
But, the discovery of the clitoris in female snakes is both surprising and very much not.
Evolutionarily speaking, there’s no reason snakes shouldn’t have clitorises. Why? Well, because they are basically made from the same knot of cells as (hemi)penes.
Thanks to Folwell and Brennan’s efforts, we now know that hemiclitorises exist in at least nine snake species.
The team hopes that future work will uncover a fuller picture of the hemiclitoris’s evolutionary history and how it fits into snake mating behavior.
Snake foreplay & seduction?
What’s not totally clear yet is what snake clitorises do.
Based on what researchers know about mammalian clitorises, the structures could, when stimulated, make a female snake more receptive to sex by, say, lubricating or relaxing her cloaca.
Scientists have already found that snake clitorises contain lots of blood vessels and nerve endings, hinting that the organs can also swell and feel.
During their equivalent of foreplay, the reptiles will coil their tails around each other, the male vibrating and undulating; he will sometimes rub his chin up and down the female’s body or flick at her with his tongue.
Some of these behaviors could engage the clitorises, making the female more eager to mate or prolonging the coupling event.
Female anatomy, taboo or…?
On that note, let’s remind ourselves that the lack of research on female anatomy is a troubling scientific trend.
Even in humans, surprisingly little is known about the clitoris.
The full structure of the organ, which includes not only the little nub at the top of the labia but also two large internal bulbs full of nerve endings, wasn’t discovered until the mid-1840s.
Even then, it remained relatively obscure to the medical establishment until the early 2000s. In fact, just last month, scientists counted all 10,000 nerve fibers in the human clitoris for the first time.