The Aquatic Ape Theory

Topics: Vernix caseosa, Human evolution, Aquatic ape hypothesis Pages: 1 (319 words) Published: April 20, 2011
Rachel Harrison presents…
The Aquatic Ape Theory!

The aquatic ape theory is an alternative explanation of human evolution that suggests modern man spent some time adapting to a semi-aquatic environment before taking on its current form. This idea was first proposed in 1942, and its greatest proponent since that time has been Elaine Morgan. The aquatic ape theory, although compelling, has failed to become accepted within the scientific community.

Max Westenhofer first published an account of the theory in 1942, but it was Alister Hardy who defined the idea more clearly in 1960: “My thesis is that a branch of this primitive ape-stock was forced by competition from life in the trees to feed on the sea-shores and to hunt for food, shell fish, sea-urchins etc., in the shallow waters off the coast. I suppose that they were forced into the water just as we have seen happen in so many other groups of terrestrial animals. I am imagining this happening in the warmer parts of the world, in the tropical seas where Man could stand being in the water for relatively long periods, that is, several hours at a stretch.” The first use of the term “aquatic ape” was by Desmond Morris in his book, The Naked Ape, in 1960; writer Elaine Morgan read of this and became the theory’s strongest promoter for the second half of the twentieth century.

The theory is grounded in the idea that humans can be distinguished from their nearest evolutionary relatives by several semi-aquatic adaptations: a relatively hairless appearance in comparison to the great apes, a hooded nose and muscular nostril aperture control to prevent water from entering the lungs, extensive sebaceous glands, vestigial webbing between fingers, and the waxy coating found on newborns.

The aquatic ape hypothesis has received little attention from mainstream paleoanthropologists as it lacks evidence from fossil records to support its claims.
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