The external genitalia of female gibbons, Hylobates (H.) lar

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Abstract

The external genitalia of one perimenarcheal and five adult female white handed-gibbons (Hylobates (H.) lar) were examined to clarify their gross anatomy. It was found that the vulval structures were complex and exhibited inter-individual variation in arrangement. This complexity appears to result from an ontogenetic process by which the tissues of the vaginal rim (the labia minora) bud-off and extrude extensions toward the vagina immediately prior and subsequent to menarche. Two of these lobular structures surround the urethral meatus with associated prepuce and frenulum and vestigial labia majora, undergo cycles of tumescence and detumescence during intermenstrual intervals. The complex form of the external genitalia and the presence of a swelling cycle are unusual for a monogamous species, are contrary to current applications of sexual selection theory, and raise questions about the significance of mate choice in hominoid evolution.

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