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

Brennan joins the ranks of the more than 30 faculty members awarded the honor at Mount Holyoke.

For the first time in its history, Mount Holyoke College has been selected as a Beckman Scholars Program awardee by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. The foundation chose the College after a rigorous application process.

Mount Holyoke assistant professor Patrica Brennan’s research found that snakes have clitorises that are forked — just like snakes’ tongues and just like snakes’ penises.

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

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.

Brennan, P.L.R., Sterett, M. [MHC '20]., DiBuono, M.[MHC '20], Lara Granados, G. [MHC '21]. Klo, K.[MHC '20], Marsden, R.[MHC '20], Schleinig, P.[MHC '19], Tanner, L[MHC '19]. and S. Purdy. 2021. Intra-horn penile intromission in the alpaca and consequences to genital morphology. Integrative and Comparative Biology. DOI: 10.1093/icb/icab050, pp:1-10

Recent Honors


Dr. Brennan was an invited speaker at the Gender and Science in Communication Colloquium in Bilbao, Spain, February 9, 2023. Her presentation “De Vaginas y Clitorises, Historias de ciencia innovadora,” discussed the importance of a diverse perspective in Science. Dr. Brennan gave the opening presentation in the Third Colloquium of Biological Sciences for BUAP in Mexico in celebration of the International day of women in science on February 11, 2023 . Her virtual presentation was “Re-examinando la biología genital de las hembras.”

Dr. Brennan was elected as a AAAS Fellow in January 2023, for her contributions to morphological research.

Was interviewed for the podcast Mujeres en Ciencia, an initiative from Colombian Biologists.

Gave departmental seminars on her research on sexual conflict and genital evolution at the OEB graduate program at UMass, and at George Mason University (March 25 and April 8, 2022).

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