Patty Brennan

  • Associate Professor of Biological Sciences
Patricia Brennan

Patricia (Patty) Brennan is interested in the morphological evolution of genital morphology in vertebrates, and the mechanisms that drive genital diversification, sexual conflict in particular.  She has a BSc in Marine Biology from her native Colombia, where she studied cardiac physiology of marine mammals. She went on to work in the Galapagos Islands aboard a research vessel (R/V Odyssey).  Brennan completed her Ph.D. dissertation at Cornell University, where she studied the breeding biology and reproductive system of the Great Tinamou (Tinamus major), a basal bird from South America related to the ostrich.  During this time she developed an interest on post-copulatory selection in birds, and went on to do her post-doctoral work on genital and sperm traits in ducks.  Her current interests have expanded to understanding genital evolution in vertebrates, in particular examining female genital morphology and coevolution. She worked as a research professor at Umass Amherst before joining the faculty at Mount Holyoke College.

Brennan’s research has received much media attention and she has become very interested in public outreach and education, and is an advocate (in print and lectures) of the importance of science communication and defense of basic science.

Areas of Expertise

Morphological evolution of reproductive structures, sexual conflict, post-copulatory sexual selection.


  • Ph.D., Cornell University
  • B.Sc., Universidad de Bogota Jorge Tadeo Lozano

Happening at Mount Holyoke

Recent Campus News

Mount Holyoke College Associate Professor Patricia Brennan’s research has revealed the mating method of alpacas to be unlike any other known mammal. During copulation, male alpacas have been found to inseminate females directly into the uterus.

Mount Holyoke College held its annual Faculty Awards Ceremony and celebrated five faculty members for their teaching, research and service.

Patricia Brennan, associate professor of biological sciences at Mount Holyoke College, discusses a new study on serotine bat reproduction with The New York Times.

Recent Grants

Patricia Brennan received a grant from the National Science Foundation for the project 'CAREER: Integrating Form and Function in the Coevolution of Copulatory Traits. The project is for five years (2021).

Recent Publications

Brennan, P.L.R., Purdy, S., and Bacon, S. 2024. Intrahorn insemination in the alpaca: damage to the female tract, and immune consequences. PLoS ONE 19, no. 4: e0295882

Folwell, M., Sanders, K., Brennan, P.L.R., and J. Crowe-Riddell. 2022. First evidence of hemiclitores in snakes. Proc. Royal Soc. B. 289: 20221702.

Lara Granados, G. Greenwood, J. Secor, S. Hedrick, B. and P.L.R. Brennan. 2022. 3-D examination of the genital morphology of male and female diamond watersnakes Nerodia rhombipher. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 10.1093/biolinnean/blac051

Poo, S., Whitfield, S., Watkins-Colwell, G., Gil, N., Goodwin, J, Brennan, P.L.R., … Chakrabarthi, P. 2022. Bridging the research gap between live collections in zoos and preserved collections in natural history museums. Bioscience. doi:10.1093/biosci/biac022

Brennan, P.L.R., Cowart, J. and D. O. Orbach. 2022. Functional morphology of the dolphin clitoris. Current Biology. 31: R1-R3.

Recent Honors

Dr. Brennan was invited to talk on April 1, 2024 at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, First Friday at the Museum event.

Dr. Brennan was invited to speak at Texas A&M on March 25, 2024.

In the fall of 2023, Dr. Brennan was invited to speak at the University of Montana, Duluth (September), the University of Nebraska (October) and honored as the Graduate Student Invited speaker at Marquette University (November).

Dr. Brennan was invited to speak at the Chelsey Lecture at Carleton College. The title of the talk was Oddball Science. Why studies of evolutionary Phenomena are crucial. The talk was given on February 11, 2024.

Dr. Brennan was invited to talk at Adelaide University, Australia. (2023)

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