Imagine having two penises.
Think of all the advantages.
Were you actually able to think of any? I wasn’t.
But I can think of plenty of drawbacks.
For one, every men’s room floor would be even more disgusting.
So many guys have trouble aiming one penis. Two would be a complete disaster.
But when it comes to snakes, there are reasons they have two penises.
Keep reading to learn why snakes have two penises and how they take advantage of that.
Table of Contents
Why Do Snakes Have Two Penises?
The shortest, and most prevalent, answer is that having two penises allows a male snake to mate with a female, no matter which side of his she is on. This can come in handy when there is an intense mating competition between many male snakes.
However, as we delve deeper into this topic, we begin to learn there could be a number of different reasons as to why a snake has two penises. Let’s take a closer look at snakes and their hemipenes (singular: hemipenis).
A snake penis is known as a hemipenis. The two together are hemipenes. Snakes are not the only animals to have hemipenes. Other reptiles, like lizards and crocodiles, have them, too.
When it comes time to mate, snakes can become quite aggressive. A number of different males can end up competing for one single female. As mentioned, that is where two penises can come in handy. No matter which side the female is on, the male snake will find it easy to enter her.
Female snakes have a large amount of control when it comes to becoming pregnant, so much so that they can even choose whether or not to become pregnant after mating.
A female snake can store sperm in her body for up to five years, which can also mean that, when she does choose to produce offspring, it could come from any number of fathers.
In effect, this means a male snake can mate with many females, but never actually produce any offspring. Because a male snake has two penises, it has a higher chance of producing offspring. It can use one penis to mate with one female, then use the second one to mate with another.
A more scientific reason for two penises could be down to the way the genitals grow at the embryo stage. In snakes, and other reptiles, the two penises may grow as a way to replicate the legs. In contrast, in humans, the penis grows as a way to replicate a tail.
A snake’s penis is located in a completely different area from a mammal’s. In fact, it is located where you would expect to find the legs of a mammal, which is much further down a snake’s body. On a human, the penis is located where you would expect to find a tail.
All genitals come from the same embryonic structure, which is known as the cloaca. This is the cell structure that tells the embryo where to create the penis on the snake’s body.
The location of the snake’s cloaca can be why it has two penises. Since the cloaca is located closer to where the hind legs would be on a mammal, then this can genetically be the reason a snake has two penises. It replicates the legs.
Do Male Snakes Have Balls?
Male snakes do have testicles. They have two balls that function the same way a human’s do, which means that they produce sperm and testosterone.
However, many snakes will only produce sperm on a seasonal basis, which is usually around mating season. A male snake carries its testes in the abdominal area and they are often attached to its kidney.
Because they carry their testicals internally, it can be difficult to determine if your snake does in fact have any balls, until mating season rolls around.
How Do Snakes Pee?
“But I’ve never seen my snake pee,” I hear you say. This is because they don’t. At least not the way humans do.
Once a snake has digested all of its food, it is then passed through an opening at the end of its tail. Both poop and pee come out from the same place. Both also come out in a solid state.
Because snakes can go a long time without eating, up to several weeks even, they do not excrete waste very often. This lack of excretory activity can also leave you wondering if your snake has peed today. But this is nothing to worry about, and actually completely normal.
How often your snake will excrete waste depends on your snake. Some may poop straight after eating and pee straight after drinking. Others may go a few weeks before emptying themselves. It can all depend on how active your snake is, and the speed of its digestive system.
Can Snakes Change Gender?
In a way they can, yes. Certain species of snakes do have the ability to change their gender. One of those species is the red-sided garter snake. After hibernating, this snake can feel weak, tired, and hungry, which can make it more vulnerable as prey.
To avoid death, the male garter snake can release a female pheromone, pose as a female, and attract male garter snakes to protect it, until it gets its strength back.
Another species of snake with the ability to change genders is the flowerpot snake. A flowerpot snake is capable of parthenogenesis, or asexual reproduction. This means it can fertilise its own eggs. Even though they are not technically changing gender, they are able to become both genders at the same time.
How Do Snakes Get Pregnant?
When female snakes are ready to mate, they send out a trace of pheromones for a male snake to follow. Once the female has chosen her desired male, she will place her head on top of his and then let their tails align, so that their genitals can work together.
Once the mating process is completed, the female can choose when she wants the egg to develop inside of her. After a month of cooking up her eggs, she makes a nest and lays them. This usually happens in the summertime, when the summer heat can help keep the eggs warm.
This is still necessary even though snakes are cold-blooded. Many females even leave their eggs once they have been lain. Baby snakes are well equipped to look after themselves, even straight after birth.
Why Snakes Have Two Penises: Final Thoughts
Now you know why snakes have two penises. As usual, it is all about giving the males a better chance of passing on their genes. But with snakes, the female has the ultimate power to choose which sperm will fertilize her eggs, so I suppose the two penises don’t provide the advantage the males might hope.
And the fact that there are two hemipenes is not even the strangest thing! Even more bizarre is the way a snake penis looks. Learn much more in our article on snake mating habits.