from the not-useful-for-all-porpoises dept.
Like humans, female dolphins have a functional clitoris, according to a study appearing January 10 in the journal Current Biology. The findings are based on the discovery that the clitoris-like structure positioned in the vaginal entrance of bottlenose dolphins has lots of sensory nerves and erectile bodies.
"The dolphin clitoris has many features to suggest that it functions to provide pleasure to females," says first author Patricia Brennan, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.
Scientists have known that dolphins are highly social. They have sex throughout the year as a way of forging and maintaining social bonds. It had been noted also that dolphin females have a clitoris in the vagina in a spot that would make stimulation during copulation likely. There've also been reports of females rubbing each other's clitorises with their snouts, flippers, and flukes.
[...] Patricia Brennan: I have been collaborating with a researcher who was studying vaginas in dolphins. Dolphins have very complicated vaginas, which contain many folds. The hypothesis was that these folds were there to exclude salt water during copulation, because it is supposed to be lethal to mammalian sperm. But nobody had actually ever really studied these folds or tried to test the idea.
We haven't been able to pinpoint exactly why they are that way. But when we dissected the vaginas, I would look at these clitorises and be just amazed. I was like: "Oh my gosh, these are pretty big, well-developed clitorises." And I thought that might be something interesting to look at.
[...] Are dolphins really having sex all the time? Are they more sexually active than other animals?
We don't really know if they are having more sex than other marine mammals. It's really hard to study sexual behaviour in cetaceans because they're out there [in the ocean]. But bottlenose dolphins live close to the shore, where scientists can go out on their boats and study them. They see them having sex year-round, even when the females are not receptive, so not ready to get pregnant and have babies.
And not only do they have sex all the time, they have a lot of homosexual sex as well. The females will rub each other's clitorises with their snouts and their flippers really often. It's not like every once in a blue moon you'll see females stimulating each other, it's actually pretty common. Females also masturbate.
If they're out there seeking all these sexual experiences, it's likely that it's probably feeling good.
Patricia L.R. Brennan, Jonathan R. Cowart, Dara N. Orbach. Evidence of a functional clitoris in dolphins, Current Biology (DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.11.020)