Researchers say they have uncovered the evolutionary roots of the female orgasm, reports The Guardian.
Scientists have long been puzzled by the purpose of the climactic sensation as it is not necessary for conception. Now, US researchers say it might be a spin-off from our evolutionary past, when its hormonal surges were crucial for reproduction.
"It is important to stress that it didn’t look like the human female orgasm looks like now," said Mihaela Pavlicev, who helped lead the study. "We think that [the hormonal surge] is the core that was maybe modified further in humans."
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In mammals such as cats and rabbits, the surges which occur during sex play a vital role in signalling for eggs to be released from the ovaries, while in other mammals, including humans, females ovulate spontaneously.
However, by tracing these mechanisms of ovulation across evolution, the scientists found that "male-induced ovulation" predates spontaneous ovulation, which probably arose around 75 million years ago. This means the human female orgasm could have its origin in a mechanism for the release of eggs during sexual intercourse which then became redundant with the evolution of spontaneous ovulation.
Pavlicev says it might have then taken on a new purpose. "There is a lot of discussion about whether it could have any functions like in bonding behaviour and things like that, so we cannot exclude that it actually has co-opted some other function after it lost its function in reproduction," she said.
However, Elisabeth Lloyd, a professor of biology at Indiana University and the author of The Case of the Female Orgasm, said the female orgasm is purposeless and simply a "a fantastic bonus".
Meanwhile, a new video has attempted to answer which is better: the male or female orgasm. It found that, in terms of length, men's climaxes tend to last between three and 10 seconds, while women take around 20 or more seconds.
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