By Mandy Te
Do female dolphins enjoy having sex? American researchers decided to find out by looking at the clitorises of female dolphins.
Scientists know that dolphins are highly social. They have sex throughout the year as a way of creating and maintaining social bonds.
It's also been noted that female dolphins have a clitoris in the vagina in a spot that would make pleasure during sex likely. There's also been reports of female dolphins rubbing each other's clitorises with their snouts and flippers.
Patricia Brennan, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Mount Holyoke College in the United States, and other researchers took a closer look at the dolphin clitoris.
In the study, Evidence of a functional clitoris in dolphins, published on January 10, researchers examined the clitorises of 11 female dolphins that had died naturally.
They looked at their presence, shape and configuration of their erectile bodies. They also looked at how nerve fibers ran through the tissues.
What the researchers found was yes — when their clitoris is stimulated while doing the deed, it feels good.
“Just like the human clitoris, the dolphin clitoris has large areas of erectile tissue that fill up with blood,” Brennan said.
Overall, Brennan said the erectile bodies in dolphins are “surprisingly similar” to the shape of the erectile bodies in humans, finding genital corpuscles — a small body or cell in an organism — much like those previously described in the human clitoris and penis tip, which are known to be part of a human's pleasure response.
“Since the entire pelvis of dolphins is so different to humans, it was surprising to see how similar the shapes were,” she says.
“Also, the size of the nerves in the clitoris body was very surprising. Some were larger than half a millimetre in diameter.”
Brennan said they got curious about the dolphin clitoris while studying the evolution of vaginas in dolphins.
“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,” she says.
“We knew that dolphins have sex not just to reproduce, but also to solidify social bonds, so it seemed likely that the clitoris could be functional.”
The researchers have noted there's been little study of the clitoris and female pleasure in nature — in fact, even the human clitoris wasn't fully looked into until the 1990s.
"This neglect in the study of female sexuality has left us with an incomplete picture of the true nature of sexual behaviours," Brennan said.
“Studying and understanding sexual behaviours in nature is a fundamental part of understanding the animal experience and may even have important medical applications in the future.”
Brennan and her team will continue to examine the clitoris and genitalia of dolphins, and other animals to help fill these gaps.
Top Image: A dolphin peeping out of the blue water. Photo: alexxx1981/iStock