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Bio-bullets

An exceptional clitoris proves the olfactory rule

The fossa, a civet-like species from Madagascar, is an exception proving a hidden rule: that the clitoris functions mainly for scent.

professor caricatureProf. Mumblebard claims: "The clitoris is a developmental vestige of the penis, functioning as a sense organ during copulation, and it is well-developed only in those species which – because of their female-dominated societies – have an unusual amount of testosterone in the female. The proportionately large size of the clitoris in some mammals is not adaptive as much as collateral: a symptom of an unusual degree of hormonal androgenisation in the species concerned."

logoRobin and the Honey Badger respond: "In various species of mammals the elongated clitoris is unlikely to be stimulated by the male, either in courtship or by the penis during copulation. This is epitomised by the fossa, a civet-like species which is the largest native carnivore on the island of Madagascar. In the fossa, the clitoris is penis-like only in the juvenile female after weaning and before sexual maturity. This ‘tween’ period lasts several years because of the particularly slow growth of the fossa, a predator which depends on slow-growing lemurs for its food. What is most remarkable about the fossa is that, although the flaccid clitoris is housed in a labial pouch, it grows both a clitoral bone and a complex spiny head that are largely resorbed when sexual maturity is reached, at which time the clitoris shrinks permanently for the breeding life of the female. This means that in maturity as in infancy, the clitoris is small, but at the juvenile stage the erect clitoris is as long as, and more complicated than, the human penis. Because the full-size clitoris of the fossa is not involved in copulation but is well-designed for scent-marking, it shows in extreme form an adaptive principle hidden in plain sight which applies to varying degrees in all mammals. This is that the mammalian clitoris is used for social scenting more consistently than for sexual stimulation."

 

Please join us here at the Bio-edge with your own comments. In the discussion below we encourage links to any evidence supporting either Prof. Mumblebard or Robin and the Honey Badger. Illustrations are welcome but please cite all sources or we may be forced under copyright to delete your comment.

speaker icon"In other words"

 

Last modified on 16 July 2015

Comments   

0 #1 Biodiver 2014-02-13 11:10
I looked up the original research papers on the fossa. Clare Hawkins seems to choose her words quite conservatively, but this is worth having a look at including the pictures.
biolreprod.org/.../610.long
0 #2 Naturesprite 2014-02-13 16:21
Yikes. Just look at those spiny genitalia. Ouch!
biolreprod.org/.../...
0 #3 Biodiver 2014-02-13 17:43
The fossa is as ordinary looking in most ways as its genitalia are extraordinary.

Picture attributed to Ran Kirlian (CC)
0 #4 Naturesprite 2014-02-13 17:54
Robin and the Honey Badger, are you implying that human females also go about using their clitorises mainly for scent-marking? Surely any educated person knows that the human clitoris is the only organ devoted exclusively to sexual pleasure? Are you denying that?!
0 #5 Megabeast 2014-02-14 16:19
This reminds me of the spotted hyena. The clitoris isn’t much like the fossa’s but it’s a pretty convincing replica of a penis, complete with false scrotum. Amazing to think that the spotted hyena gives birth through what is effectively a female penis. Check out this picture en.wikipedia.org/.../...
0 #6 Procreation 2014-02-14 16:27
Some monkeys and other primates have a long clitoris which wouldn’t really get rubbed by the penis during mating. These animals seem to use the clitoris mainly for depositing scent on branches etc. So right there it doesn’t look like all human relatives agree with this idea that a clitoris is all about sexual pleasure. Or what am I missing?
0 #7 Megabeast 2014-02-19 12:14
This thing that the penis is a bit of a jack of all trades while the clitoris is for 100% sexual pleasure is definitely a bit stretched. Ok, a penis passes urine and produces smegma (sorry, let’s face it because we’re biologists here) as well as ejaculating, and most mammals don’t have a clitoris which passes urine. But make no mistake, some do.
0 #8 Megabeast 2014-02-19 12:23
GALAGOS for example, and this has been known for at least 40 years. See the abstract here by Haines et al. 1976 in which they state that “in the adult female, the clitoris...has the urethral opening in its tip”. They studied Galago senegalensis (which is maybe better-known for the fact that chimpanzees are capable of hunting this little primate by making its own chimp-spears and then skewering the poor bushbabies while theyre sleeping in their holes by day). People sometimes keep these bushbabies as pocket pets but this takes some getting used to because its normal for them to pee on their hands to spread their personal scent and when they grab you affectionately its with these tacky little hands. The female can dribble urine just like the male because she has what is effectively a peeing penis. Galagos are primates like humans. So now you know.

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/.../820920

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