Animal genitalia: amphibians, reptiles and mammals

After the first post on the genitals of birds and fish, we close chapter on the curiosities of the penises, vaginas and other reproductive organs of amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

GENITALS IN AMPHIBIANS

As we saw in a previous post, the cloaca is the hole where the digestive, reproductive and excretory systems converge. All amphibians possess cloaca, as well as reptiles, birds and some fish (sharks and rays) and mammals.

Larvae of amphibians are characterized by a great transformation known as metamorphosis .
Do not miss the successful post about amphibious sperm thieves .

ANURA

The anurans (amphibians without tail, such as frogs) have external reproduction and mating occurs usually in the water. The male, who is smaller than the female, grips the female firmly. This embrace  is called amplexus.

Amplexus of Litoria xanthomera. Photo: Rainforest harley

The contractions of the female when expelling the eggs stimulate the male to spray them of sperm in the same moment that they are expelled. The eggs are joined by a gelatinous mass that takes different forms depending on the species.
The male frogs of the genus Ascaphus have a false tail that is nothing but an extension of the cloaca.

Tailed frog (Ascaphus truei). Photo: Mokele

URODELA

Almost all urodela (amphibians with tail, such as salamanders and newts) have internal fertilization. The male is placed in front of the female and releases sperm packages (spermatophores) containing the sperm. The female walks over one of them, collects it with the lips of the cloaca and places them in the spermatheca, a cavity where the sperm wait for the eggs to pass through the cloaca to make them fertilize. The female lays the fertilized eggs one by one beating them in aquatic plants, except in some species of salamander, in which the female retains them and they are born live larvae (ovovivivarism).

Salamander spermatophores (Ambystoma sp.). Photo: Placeuvm


APODA

Apoda or caecilians are amphibians without legs with internal fertilization, but unlike in anura, internal insemination occurs. This is possible thanks to a pseudo-phallus (phallodeum) that have the males, which they insert in the cloaca of the female for two or three hours. In oviparous species (25%) the eggs are kept by the mother, the rest of species are ovoviviparous (75%).

Caecilia phallodeum. Photo used under permission by: Danté Fenolio

In some ovoviviparous species the offspring are born metamorphosed, in others as larvae. During their stay inside the mother, they feed on oviduct cells, which they scrape with their special teeth. In the case of the oviparous species Boulengerula taitana, the larvae feed on the mother’s skin allowing them to grow 10 times their size in a week.

GENITALIA IN REPTILES

 SCALED REPTILES

Scaled reptiles (Squamata order), as lizards and snakes have the penis divided into two: this is known as  hemipenis. It is kept inside the tail and exits to the outside during intercourse thanks to the erectile tissues. In spite of being double, during intercourse they only introduce one of the parts into the female, although they can do it alternately. The ends can be smooth or have spikes or structures to ensure grip to the female’s cloaca.

Viviparous lizard (Zootoca vivipara) showing its hemipenis. Photo: Charlesjsharp

 

TURTLES

In some sea turtles, the cloaca retains the ability to exchange gas, in other words, to breathe. The water slowly passes through it, which allows to collect the oxygen and take it to the lungs.

The male tortoises have a simple penis that is folded in two in the cloaca, inside the tail, reason why the tail of the males is thicker and longer than the females’. During the erection, it fills with fluid, deploys and exits, reaching a comparatively larger size.

Mediterranean tortoise penis (Testudo hermanni). Source

CROCODILES

Crocodiles have a rigid penis (always in erection) hidden inside the body that, shot out like a spring to the outside at the time of copulation and is hidden again at the same speed. According to this study , fibrous tissue and collagen makes unnecessary the erection and detumescence in the American alligator.

GENITALIA IN MAMMALS

MONOTREMES

Monotremes are the most primitive mammals, with some reptilian characteristics, like the laying of eggs and the presence of cloaca. Platypus and echidnas are the best known representatives.

Monotremes penises have 4 heads, although not all can work simultaneously. It uses only half, that is, two heads at a time. In the case of the platypus only the left side works, since the female only has functional the left ovary.

Echidna penis’. Source

MARSUPIALS

The marsupials are those mammals in which the breeding ends its development in a pouch, a kind of bag that own the females and where the breasts are. The best known marsupials are kangaroos, koalas, opossums and the extinct thylacine.

Opossum’s penis. Photo: Ellen Rathbone

Generally females have two vaginas, which fit with the bifurcated penises of males, which retract into the S-shaped body, In the case of kangaroos, females have three vaginas and two uteri . The two lateral vaginas lead the sperm towards the uterus and the central one is where the brood descends during the delivery.

Reproductive system of marsupial femanel. Photo: National Geographic

PLACENTAL

  PENILE BONE AND ERECTION

In placental mammals, such as humans, the offspring develops in the uterus and is nourished by the placenta. Many placental males have a penile bone (baculum). This bone would allow copulation even if there is no erection. Some placentals have lost their baculum: humans, hyenas, equines (horses, zebras, etc.) and lagomorphs (rabbits, hares …). In them, erection is possible thanks to the blood filling of the corpora cavernosa.

A dog’s baculum.The arrow shows the uretral hollow. Photo: Didier Descouens

DOLPHINS

In the case of dolphins, their penis is prehensile and sensory. The end is rotatory and it is not uncommon to see them feel the seabed with their penis. This has led to false myths such as that the dolphins are always excited and try to copulate with anything that gets them ahead. This tactile ability would also allow them to strengthen social bonds between them, even among males. This behavior is also observed in orcas.

The dolphin’s vagina is full of folds and corners to make sperm access to the egg difficult, either from rival males or males with which the female did not want to mate. If you want to see how the penis fits in the intricate dolphin’s vagina, click here.

HYENAS

At first glance we could confuse a male hyena with a female. Female spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) have a long vagina that extends into an external clitoris of the same size as the male penis. The offspring must cross this long channel at birth, who suffers from great tears in the first deliveries and sometimes the puppies die because they can not cross it. In addition, the vaginal lips are also large and full of fat, which could seem testicles.

Spotted hyena’s female genitalia. Source: Quora

 

REFERENCES

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