Why Do Female Hyenas Have Pseudo-Penises?! | Summary and Q&A

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October 4, 2017
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MinuteEarth
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Why Do Female Hyenas Have Pseudo-Penises?!

TL;DR

Female spotted hyenas have elongated clitorises that resemble penises, but serve different functions. They give birth through these pseudo penises, which can be fatal and make mating an awkward process.

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Key Insights

  • πŸ€™ Female spotted hyenas possess elongated clitorises called pseudopenises, which serve multiple functions.
  • πŸ•΅οΈβ€β™€οΈ Pseudopenises enable female hyenas to control mating and reproductive choices by retracting during copulation.
  • πŸ₯³ Giving birth through the pseudopenis is a challenging process, with a high risk of complications for both mother and cubs.
  • πŸ•΅οΈβ€β™€οΈ The evolutionary purpose of these unique genitalia in female spotted hyenas remains a mystery.
  • πŸ•΅οΈβ€β™€οΈ Female hyenas' dominance makes it unlikely that pseudopenises evolved as a protection against male suitors.
  • πŸ˜• Confusing others or mimicking males is unlikely to be the reason for the complex genitalia, as hyenas have other distinguishing features.
  • πŸ₯³ The rip left after giving birth makes subsequent births easier for female hyenas.

Transcript

Hi, this is Kate from MinuteEarth, and before we start, I want to let you know that this video covers the ins and outs of hyena genitalia, so if that’s not something you’re keen to learn about, you can check out some of our other videos. But from the comments on our recent hyena video, we learned that a lot of people are really curious about what, ... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why do female spotted hyenas have elongated clitorises?

The elongated clitorises, or pseudopenises, of female spotted hyenas have evolved for urination, mating, and giving birth. They are not actual penises but serve similar functions.

Q: How do female spotted hyenas mate with their pseudopenises?

Female hyenas must retract their pseudopenises to enable mating. This mechanism allows them to control their reproductive choices and avoid forced copulation.

Q: What are the challenges of giving birth for female spotted hyenas?

Female hyenas give birth through their pseudopenises, which requires ripping and can be life-threatening. Around 60% of first-time mothers experience complications, and their cubs may suffocate during birth.

Q: Why do female spotted hyenas have such complex genitalia?

The exact reasons for the evolution of elongated clitorises in female spotted hyenas are still unknown. It is possibly related to reproductive and dominance strategies, but conclusive evidence is lacking.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Female spotted hyenas have elongated clitorises called pseudopenises, which are the most male-like genitalia among female mammals.

  • These pseudopenises are used for urination, mating, and giving birth. Mating involves retracting the pseudopenis, and giving birth requires ripping it, which can be life-threatening.

  • Hyenas have these unique genitalia, but the reasons behind their evolution are still unclear.

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