Female dolphins could have a working clitoris like humans, according to new research.
Scientists said they found evidence it was “likely functional” and “highly sensitive to tactile stimulation”.
Dophins are known to have sexual intercourse even when they are not capable of conceiving. Research has previously suggested they use this as a way to forge and maintain social bonds.
The new study has suggested it may also be pleasurable for female dolphins due to clitoral stimulation.
US researchers analysed the clitoris-like structure in the vaginal entrance of 11 female bottlenose dolphins and found it had lots of sensory nerves and erectile bodies.
“Our anatomical examination of the clitoris of the common bottlenose dolphin reveals a complex organ with many similarities to the clitoris of other species known to have sexual pleasure, including humans,” the authors of the study – published in journal Current Biology – wrote.
“Our study suggests that female dolphins likely experience pleasure when the clitoris is stimulated during copulation, homosexual behavior, and masturbation.”
Patricia Brennan, the study’s lead author, said: “Just like the human clitoris, the dolphin clitoris has large areas of erectile tissue that fill up with blood.”
The assistant professor of biological sciences at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts said it was “surprising” to see how similar the shape was to the human clitoris, even though the pelvis is a dolphin is very different.
She added: “Studying and understanding sexual behaviors in nature is a fundamental part of understanding the animal experience and may even have important medical applications in the future.”
In 2019, one of the study’s authors told a conference that research had suggested there were similarities between clitorises in female dolphins and humans, but more research was needed to establish whether sexual intercourse was pleasurable for the female sea creatures.