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Researcher Megan Folwell initially came across the organ after she made an incision into a female Australian death adder’s tail. But she saw that there was barely any literature confirming snake clitorises.
“It just didn’t make sense to me,” she said. “I knew there had to be something going on.”
Along with her team, they dissected preserved specimens from four snake families and used computer tomography scans on the reptiles. They found that at least nine snake species had a forked “hemiclitoris,” each with its own shape and size.
This was the first time a clitoris was detected in snakes: Scientists have found the sensitive organ in various vertebrate species, including lizards – the snake’s closest cousins.
But the findings also underscore a disparity in the study of male and female genitalia.
In the case of snakes, there are more than 200 years of data about the male species’ “hemipenis,” a two-pronged penis tucked under the base of the tail.
Previously, researchers had speculated that female snake clitorises did not exist or they had been reduced to a stunted evolutionary remnant.
But this trend is also common with other species, including humans where there are still new findings about the clitoris.
According to a 2014 study, around 50 percent of all animal genitalia studies published between 1989 and 2013 focused solely on males, whereas 10 percent focused solely on females.