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  • 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, exactly, is going on with hyena genitalia.

  • And they're not alone - everyone from Aristotle to Hemingway to a host of modern scientists

  • has been interested in why, exactly, female spotted hyenas seem to have penises.

  • Females urinate through these 7-inch long phalluses, and they're fully erectile.

  • But since they don't deliver sperm, they aren't actually penises - they're elongated

  • clitorises.

  • Spotted hyenas are the only hyena species to sport these so-called pseudopenises, and

  • while a few other female mammals have male-like genitalia, the spotted hyena's is the most

  • male-like by far - complete with a pseudoscrotum.

  • All the female reproductive parts are there, but the entrance is so unwieldy that females

  • have to mate - and give birth - through what's essentially a penis.

  • Mating via pseudopenis is about as awkward as you might imagine [speak slowly].

  • In order to make sex possible, the female actually has to retract her pseudopenis, so

  • male hyenas can't force females to have sex.

  • And speaking of which, we got a lot of comments about female hyenas forcing sex on males,

  • but there just isn't any evidence that this ever happens.

  • Then, there's giving birth, which involves forcing a 4-pound cub through an inch-wide,

  • 23-inch-long birth canal, which is...not easy.

  • For first-time moms, somewhere around 60 percent of cubs get stuck in this gauntlet and suffocate

  • before they're even born.

  • And a dead cub stuck in a mom's pseudopenis can be fatal for her, too.

  • A hyena's pseudopenis actually has to rip for her to give birth successfully, which

  • leaves behind a stretchy patch that does make birth easier the next time.

  • In our earlier video, we talked about why it sucks to be a male hyena, but there's

  • also a lot that sucks about being a female hyena.

  • So why do they have such incredibly unwieldy genitalia?

  • Is fending off male suitors so critical that pseudopenises evolved as protection?

  • Doubtful - females are dominant enough to keep suitors in check without any help.

  • Are female hyenas trying to confuse others into thinking they're males?

  • Probably not - even experienced humans can tell what's pseudo and what's not, and

  • hyenas have lots of other ways of distinguishing females from males.

  • So far, we just don't have a convincing explanation for why nature has also given

  • female hyenas the shaft.

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Hi, this is Kate from MinuteEarth, and before we start, I want to let you know that this

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