"Tough break, guys."
April 7, 2015 11:47 AM   Subscribe

"The spotted hyena has a genital set-up that is unique among animals. [...] They have a pseudopenis; an extended clitoris through which they urinate, have sex, and give birth. In order to have sex a male has to place his penis in the pseudopenis, which is extremely difficult without her complete cooperation. Once the two have mated, the female has the option of simply peeing, and flushing out much of the male's sperm."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (17 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Once the two have mated, the female has the option of simply peeing, and flushing out much of the male's sperm.

A feature which would completely resolve the abortion debate if present in humans. Argument #543,879 against Intelligent Design.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:54 AM on April 7, 2015 [8 favorites]

One interesting thing about female social networks in nature--at least, among mammals--is how very strongly rooted they are in matrilines. Sometimes females will have very long-standing alliances/friendships among themselves, but matrilines--mothers and daughters and sisters--are always the biggest factor in explaining social status in these species. It's interesting to note also that these are always species where females don't disperse at adulthood, which makes sense--how else are you going to maintain a powerful matriline? This doesn't seem to be at all the case for species where male hierarchies are dominant to female ones, though; for example, hamadryas baboons have dispersing males who establish social hierarchies in their new troops via a combination of aggression and social alliances with new troop members.

(Baboons are also an interesting case study in cultural flexibility among species, come to think of it.)

Anyway. I've always found that a neat sidenote, especially when you think about human cultures and womens' status as a function of whether women move to marry men or men move to marry women in a new location. Who disperses, and who stays near their family?
posted by sciatrix at 12:07 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who's a sociologist who's been working with the now defunct Berkeley Hyena Colony and the way he put it was "Hyenas are strong because they need to make it through a hell of a birth canal just to start their lives".
posted by Talez at 12:09 PM on April 7, 2015

Once the two have mated, the female has the option of simply peeing, and flushing out much of the male's sperm.

Oh my God. Todd Akin thought he was being asked about hyenas! We all owe that man a big apology and a consolation term in the U.S. Senate.
posted by General Tonic at 12:11 PM on April 7, 2015 [5 favorites]

Once the two have mated, the female has the option of simply peeing, and flushing out much of the male's sperm.

This post on the hyena birth canal makes me wince. Add to this the siblicide between the ones who make it out alive.
posted by bouvin at 12:20 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, there's nothing you could offer that'd make me want to give birth through a pseudopenis.
posted by fnerg at 12:20 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

No wonder hyenas laugh so much.
posted by jonmc at 12:27 PM on April 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

Sadly, the top comment is
Sorry, but I prefer my women without pseudo-penises.
Happily, the next (and more highly favorited!) comment is
True, women with actual penises instead are pretty great.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:43 PM on April 7, 2015 [18 favorites]

"long, frenzied, multi-group whale-bang"
posted by ostro at 12:48 PM on April 7, 2015

Weird-ass (and clit) creatures, through and through.

Let us not malign the hyena clit
posted by clockzero at 1:12 PM on April 7, 2015

Female animals with masculinized genitalia are cool! Among my research dreams is carrying out broad comparison of female primate genitalia, looking for relationships with the uterine environment (things like fetal androgen and estrogen concentrations), sociality, and mating systems. For example, the pendulous clitoris of the spider monkey (a species where males are generally more aggressive and tightly socially bonded than females, and stay in the group they were born in), vs. the "masculinized genitalia" of the ring tailed lemur, in which females tend to be socially dominant to males and stay in the groups they were born in (incidentally, studied by Christine Drea who's also done lots of research on female hyenas).
posted by ChuraChura at 1:36 PM on April 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

Female cooperation seems to me to be much more common than male cooperation, though that might be my limited knowledge speaking. Are there any animals other than humans and termites where males cooperate on a large scale along the lines of the many examples of female cooperation in the article?
posted by clawsoon at 2:23 PM on April 7, 2015

At least among primates, male cooperation is readily observed in species where males stay in the social group they were born in. Females migrate out to a new group once they reach sexual maturity, and males are living alongside their brothers and other males they've grown up with. Although there's some internal discord - things like dominance hierarchies and complicated jockeying for access to females to mate with and so on - you also have males spending a lot of time sitting next to eachother, grooming, and even (in species like chimpanzees) sharing meat to cement relationships. Chimps and spider monkeys also have groups of males that go off into the territories of other groups and attack (and sometimes kill) other males. Bonobos are a good example of the opposite kind of social organization and cooperation: females stay in their "natal groups" and you have strong matrilines and female hierarchies while males migrate to new groups once they reach sexual maturity.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:09 PM on April 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

It's just like certain furry futanari comics I've uh never err even ahem. Said too much, did I?
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:48 PM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

In my limited knowledge, hyenas seem like such weird, outlier animals on a number of fronts. I would imagine that they make terrible pets, but they would be such compelling animals to research and watch. Someday I want to see them in the wild, though preferably at a safe distance.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:57 PM on April 7, 2015

Once the two have mated, the female has the option of simply peeing, and flushing out much of the male's sperm.

I think there is a plausible scenario that casts human female ejaculation in a somewhat similar role as a selector/deselector among potential impregnators.
posted by jamjam at 9:21 PM on April 7, 2015

Weirdly, I just sent an article off to my editor (that I've been working on for weeks? months?) all about spotted hyena pseudopenises! Happy to answer any questions about them that might pop up (hahhhh, sorry). I've read about a million articles about them lately and I still have no idea why in the heck they exist, especially given that 60% of cubs born to first-time spotted hyena moms are stillborn because of that torturous birth canal. (NB: I have no idea because researchers have no consensus, not because I'm bad at research. The Berkeley researchers tried suppressing gestational androgen levels in some of their hyena population, but it didn't affect pseudopenis development; that was the front-running theory and the one most pop science articles still promote.) If you'll forgive the self-link, sperm dumping/flushing is also super relevant to this other article I wrote, all about cryptic female choice.
posted by booknerd at 3:41 AM on April 8, 2015 [8 favorites]

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