Moths, mouths and genitals

A frenulum is a connective or coupling mechanism (Image: www.nature.berkeley.edu)

A frenulum is a connective or coupling mechanism (Image: www.nature.berkeley.edu)

I have seen plenty of moths in my time.

I have a mouth, and genitalia.

Although I speak about the former with passion, while using my mouth, I am not prone to talking about the latter in public.

But here we go...

Moths, mouths and human genitals all have one thing in common. Frenula (plural).

A single frenulum may take the form of:

  • a skin fold;
  • a ridge of tissue;
  • a bristle or row of bristles

A frenulum acts as a connective membrane in support or restraint of an adjacent part or tissue.

A moth can be differentiated from a butterfly by the presence of a frenulum

In moths, the frenulum is a bristle or row of bristles along the edge of the hindwing that keeps it in contact with the forewing.

In addition, many moths may also possess a device (retinaculum) on the forewing which acts as a loop to catch the frenulum, a little like the tricky 'hook and eye' clasps used in clothing.

Generally, butterflies do not possess a frenulum or retinaculum and to the trained eye, this mechanism (or its absence) can be used to differentiate moths and butterflies.

The human mouth contains multiple frenula

Inside the mouth, most people have several frenula.

Run your tongue around your upper jaw, right up the top, as far as you can reach, where your teeth and gums meet your cheeks.

You should feel smooth gum, and a few tight, skinny rubber-band-like struts in between the smooth form of your gums?

Each strut is a frenulum.

A frenulum connects your top lip to your top gum and similarly connects the bottom lip to the bottom gum. Several smaller frenula can also be located on the sides of the mouth, connecting the cheek tissue to the gum.

The largest oral frenulum however, is found beneath the tongue, connecting the tongue to the base of the mouth, restricting tongue movement and stopping us from swallowing our tongues!

Some children undergo an oral frenectomy (removal of part of the frenulum) as a baby to remedy what is known as tongue-tie, where the tongue is strongly restricted in movement by a large tongue frenulum.

Males and females both have genital frenula

A frenulum can be found in male genitalia, where the band of tissue connecting the foreskin to the vernal mucosa is known as the frenulum preputii penis.

Female genitalia have two frenula: the frenulum clitoridis (of the clitoris) and the frenulum labiorum pudendi, where the labia minora meet.

So there you have it. You have more in common with a moth than you thought!

Read more about genitals!

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