Plants and Animals

Female Dolphins’ Clitorises Are Full Of Feel-Good Nerves, Just Like Human

Female Dolphins’ Clitorises Are Full Of Feel-Good Nerves, Just Like Human

In several aspects of the mammalian world, the female of the species receives a raw deal. Although childbirth is a challenge and monthly bleeding (with occasional period poops) is not exactly fun, genital anatomy did a fantastic job when it sprouted the clitoris. New research has discovered that dolphins not only share this pleasure spot with humans but that it may also function in the same way. The findings, which were published in the journal Current Biology, are based on the dissection of 11 female dolphins that had died of natural causes and no longer needed their private parts.

The fact that a clitoris could be found in female dolphin genitals was not news – dolphins’ genitals are two to three times the size of humans’, so it is not exactly hard to detect – but the study’s researchers wanted to learn more about its physiological mysteries and see whether it was… y’know… pleasant. In a statement, first author Patricia Brennan, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, said, “Every time we dissected a vagina, we would see this very large clitoris, and we were curious whether anyone had examined it in detail to see if it worked like a human clitoris.”

“We knew dolphins have sex not merely to breed, but also to strengthen social relationships, so the clitoris looked likely to be functional.” They acquired samples from deceased female dolphins and examined the clitoral tissue more closely to address the Big Question. The clitoris’ location within the vaginal opening, which would presumably lead to stimulation during mating, was early evidence that it was indeed a focus of pleasure.

A deeper examination revealed that the clitoris is densely packed with sensory nerves and erectile bodies. Chonky nerves, about half a millimeter in diameter, with free nerve endings just beneath the thin layer of skin, were abundant in the tissue. Genital corpuscles — specifically encapsulated nerve endings located on the human clitoris and penis tip that play a key part in the pleasure response —also discovered here. Dolphin sex was previously assumed to have purposes other than reproduction, as these animals will engage in it all year and appear to use it to preserve social relationships. Female dolphins have also been spotted using their snouts, flippers, and flukes to stimulate each other’s clitorises — sisters doing it for themselves.

Evolution may have provided an explanation for why dolphins developed this physical oddity. “In general, if animals find sexual relationships pleasurable, they will seek out such encounters more,” Brennan told IFLScience. “This would result in increased reproductive success, which would be beneficial to evolution.” Stronger social bonding may be an added evolutionary benefit for dolphins.” The study’s discovery that the erectile tissue within the dolphins’ clitorises seems to change with age appears to corroborate this notion.

Following puberty, our genitals become a more salient part of our life, and it is possible that as a female dolphin tries to attract a mate and create adult pals, acquiring a clitoris could assist her in doing so. In a statement, Brennan stated, “The dolphin clitoris has many traits that imply it works to offer pleasure to females.”