Rab­bits may hold key to mys­tery of fe­male or­gasm

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Trends - Olivia Pet­ter

Sci­en­tists have spent years try­ing to see if the fe­male or­gasm serves a pur­pose be­yond sex­ual plea­sure, given that, un­like the male or­gasm, it has noth­ing to do with re­pro­duc­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to a new study in­volv­ing rab­bits, it could in­deed have a bi­o­log­i­cal func­tion: ovu­la­tion.

The re­search, pub­lished in ‘Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Acad­emy of Sci­ences’, sup­ports the idea that fe­male or­gasms might have orig­i­nated from a re­flex that prompts some fe­male mam­mals to re­lease eggs dur­ing in­ter­course.

Re­searchers an­a­lysed the num­ber of eggs re­leased by 21rab­bits af­ter they’d had sex with a male rab­bit, Frank.

Some of the rab­bits were put on an­tide­pres­sants known to re­duce the ca­pac­ity for fe­male or­gasms, while oth­ers were not. The sci­en­tists found that the rab­bits who were given an­tide­pres­sants, and there­fore would have had fewer or­gasms or none at all, re­leased 30% fewer eggs com­pared to the rab­bits that were not.

The find­ings fit the au­thors’ the­ory that rab­bits need to or­gasm in or­der to ovu­late, some­thing that sim­i­lar stud­ies have also sug­gested in other mam­mals.

In 2016, the same team looked at 41 dif­fer­ent species of mam­mal, in­clud­ing camels, cats and koalas, and found that15 of them also had the same re­flex, whereby ovu­la­tion is trig­gered by cop­u­la­tion.

Of course, the same ef­fect is no longer true for humans as they ovu­late spon­ta­neously. But the re­searchers think that it could have been true for our mam­malian an­ces­tors.

The au­thors write: “The ex­is­tence of fe­male or­gasm is in­trigu­ing for two rea­sons: On the one hand, fe­male or­gasm is not nec­es­sary for fe­male re­pro­duc­tive suc­cess, and on the other hand, this neuro-en­docrine re­flex is too com­plex to be an evo­lu­tion­ary ac­ci­dent. This led to many pro­posed evo­lu­tion­ary ex­pla­na­tions, most of which have lit­tle em­pir­i­cal sup­port.”

Cit­ing their 2016 study, the au­thors said they pre­vi­ously sug­gested that fe­male or­gasm “uses a mech­a­nism that orig­i­nated for in­duc­ing ovu­la­tion dur­ing cop­u­la­tion”, which it says is a mech­a­nism that still ex­ists in many an­i­mals but lost its role in oth­ers. “Here we pro­vide ex­per­i­men­tal ev­i­dence, strength­en­ing the like­li­hood that fe­male or­gasm evolved from cop­u­la­tion-in­duced ovu­la­tion,” the au­thors say.

Getty Im­ages/iStockphot­o

DECODING PLEA­SURE

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