Penile spines

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Penile spines of a domestic cat

Many mammalian species have developed keratinized penile spines along the glans and/or shaft, which may be involved in sexual selection. These spines have been described as being simple, single-pointed structures (macaques) or complex with two or three points per spine (strepsirrhines).[1] Penile spine morphology may be related to mating system[how?].

Non-human mammals[edit]

Felines, especially domestic cats, are well known for having penile spines. Upon withdrawal of a cat's penis, the spines rake the walls of the female's vagina, which may cause ovulation.[2][3]

Penile spines in chimpanzees and mice are small surface projections made by the piling up of keratinized cell layers in the outermost skin surface.[4][5] They also occur in spotted hyenas,[6] fossas,[7] and echidnas.[8]


In contrast to chimpanzees and mice, a common morphological variant found in humans called pearly penile papules are substantially larger, appear to be an outpocketing of both surface and underlying connective tissue layers, and lack the rich innervation seen in other animals.[9][10] Thus, the relationship between the structures is still uncertain.[11]

In the primate line from which humans have evolved, a regulatory DNA sequence associated with the formation of small keratinized penile spines was lost. This simplification of penis anatomy may be associated with the monogamous mating habits of humans.[12] In some species which retain the full expression of penile spines, penile spines contribute to increased sexual sensation and quicker orgasms.[not in citation given][13]

Hirsuties coronae glandis, found in humans, are sometimes described as vestigial remnants of penile spines.[4]

An hCONDEL (highly conserved region of DNA that contains deletions in humans) located near the locus of the androgen receptor gene may be responsible for the loss of penile spines in humans.[12]


The penises of some bird species feature spines and brush-like filaments.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alan F. Dixson (26 January 2012). Primate Sexuality: Comparative Studies of the Prosimians, Monkeys, Apes, and Humans. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-954464-6. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  2. ^ Virginia Douglass Hayssen; Ari Van Tienhoven (1993). Asdell's Patterns of Mammalian Reproduction: A Compendium of Species-specific Data. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-1753-5. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Aronson, L. R.; Cooper, M. L. (1967). "Penile Spines of the Domestic Cat: Their Endocrine-behavior Relations" (PDF). Anat. Rec. 157 (1): 71–78. doi:10.1002/ar.1091570111. PMID 6030760. 
  4. ^ a b Hill, W.C.O. Note on the male external genitalia of the chimpanzee. Proc.Zool.Soc. Lond. 116, 129–132 (1946)
  5. ^ Murakami, R. A histological study of the development of the penis of wild-type and androgen-insensitive mice. J. Anat. 153, 223–231 (1987)
  6. ^ R. F. Ewer (1998). The Carnivores. Cornell University Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-8014-8493-3. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  7. ^ Köhncke, M.; Leonhardt, K. (1986). "Cryptoprocta ferox" (PDF). Mammalian Species (254): 1–5. Retrieved 19 May 2010. 
  8. ^ Larry Vogelnest; Rupert Woods (18 August 2008). Medicine of Australian Mammals. Csiro Publishing. ISBN 978-0-643-09928-9. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  9. ^ Glicksman, JM and Freeman, RG. Pearly penile papules. A statistical study of incidence. Arch. Dermatol. 93:56-59 (1966)
  10. ^ Agrawal, SK et al. Pearly penile papules: a review. Int. J. Dermatology 43:199-201 (2004)
  11. ^ Penile spines versus pearly penile papules in humans
  12. ^ a b McLean, CY, PL Reno, AA Pollen, AI Bassan, TD Capellini, C Guenther, VB Indjeian, X Lim, DB Menke, BT Schaar, AM Wenger, G Bejerano, and DM Kingsley. Human-specific loss of regulatory DNA and the evolution of human-specific trait. Nature 471: 216-219 (2011). [1]
  13. ^ Paleoanthropology, Genetics, and Evolution
  14. ^ Frank B. Gill (6 October 2006). Ornithology. Macmillan. pp. 414–. ISBN 978-0-7167-4983-7. Retrieved 5 December 2012.