The snake clitoris has finally been found

In December 2022, a new study was published in the scientific journal Proceedings of The Royal Society B titled "First Evidence of Hemiclitores in Snakes." And sometimes, these things really do deliver on the headlines: it's about the first recorded human discovery of a snake clitoris. From the abstract:

Female genitalia are conspicuously overlooked in comparison to their male counterparts, limiting our understanding of sexual reproduction across vertebrate lineages. This study is the first complete description of the clitoris (hemiclitores) in female snakes. […] Histology of the hemiclitores in Australian death adders (Acanthophis antarcticus) showed erectile tissue and strands/bundles of nerves, but no spines (as is found in male hemipenes). These histological features suggest the snake hemiclitores have functional significance in mating and definitively show that the hemiclitores are not underdeveloped hemipenes or scent glands, which have been erroneously indicated in other studies.

You might be wondering: why was anyone looking for a snake clitoris in the first place? The short answer is that, well, men aren't great at finding clitorises in general, so of course the male-dominated science fields wouldn't even know where to start looking for one on a snake. But there is plenty of research on snake penises — so why not look for a snake clitoris? Naturally, it required a group of women scientists to take that extra step. From a follow-up piece on the study from The Conversation:

Across all species, researchers have given female genitalia a lotless attention compared to its male counterpart. 

What's more, it's hard to get a good look at snake genitalia. It's all internal to the snake's tail, for the most part, though the snake penis (or hemipenes) inflates for mating. 

There has been quite a bit of research into the snake penis, but the snake clitoris has been missed.

While there are earlier reports, most actually referred to lizards, or mistakenly described the penis or scent glands, or featured only vague descriptions without anatomical references. Studies of species in which intersex individuals are relatively common heightened this confusion.

However, we have shown that the snake clitoris, although it shares its developmental origins with the penis, is very different from the penis – and our detailed anatomical description should help prevent this kind of confusion occurring in future.

The researchers also noted that the presence of a clitoris suggests that "female arousal – and something more like seduction – may play a role" in the mating habits of snake.

First Evidence of Hemiclitores in Snakes [Megan J. Folwell, Kate L. Sanders, Patricia L. R. Brennan and Jenna M. Crowe-Riddell / Proceedings of The Royal Society B]

Snakes have clitorises [Jenna Crowe-Riddell / The Conversation]