Could Humanity Have Descended From Aquatic Apes?

aquatic apesAre we all on team aqua ape? The admittedly far-fetched theory posits that certain key traits hint that humanity’s ape ancestors spent significant time in the water. Complete Genomics writes:

A controversial theory that humans evolved from amphibious apes has won new support. The aquatic ape theory, whose supporters include David Attenborough, suggests that apes emerged from the water, lost their fur, started to walk upright and then developed big brains.

While it has been treated with scorn by some scientists since it first emerged 50 years ago, it is backed by a committed group of academics, including Sir David. The group will hold a major London conference next week.

One of the organizers, Peter Rhys Evans told the Observer that humans are very different from other apes, as we lack fur, walk upright, have big brains and subcutaneous fat and have a descended larynx – which is common among aquatic animals.

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  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    I always swim in my “aquatic ape” costume…

  • http://www.facebook.com/eAmike Karma Könren Gyurme

    ..from the water? as far as i know the theory rather refers to their nutrition habits close to the sea or lakes- lots of fish for heavy protein brain development food…prolly half-aquatic, referring to leftover swimming habits of babies

  • Rus Archer

    oh, well, if david attenborough thinks so

  • thrice

    dolphins are from another planet and taught humans they say

  • Alan Morse Davies

    Residual secondary eyelids on us suggest that we moved from the water much later than when we were fish precursors… otherwise the secondary eyelids would be gone.

    Maybe take some time to read. Or just blast bullshit into the great beyond.

    Fuck, I like this site but where are opinions based on facts and research?

    This is the Voice! @sherry212 Mandrake is cool, go Mandrake, we think you’re cute.

  • InfvoCuernos

    I was intrigued when I first heard this theory on an old TED talk, but there were too many holes in it, and it started sounding alot like the Stanislav Szukalski theory of the flood.

  • Alan Morse Davies

    @Pur Singh. Your absolute certainty brings me joy but not in a way that you would like. If you are alive in 200 years and the theories you are defending are disproven by the majority where would you stand?

    The same could be said of me. We know very very little and what we know is influenced by politics like everything else.
    We are the smartest on this planet but looking at evolution we are probably not the smartest galaxy-wide.

    How would it feel to be very stupid? To have got it all wrong? Even by human standards?

    I’m not supporting the hypothesis but I would ask this: if you time-traveled back 100 years and could “correct” their thinking, how would a time-traveler visiting from 100 years in your future correct your thinking?

    Do you know what you don’t know?

  • symbiont

    Tony Wright covers this very briefly in his book left in the dark, and i’d agree with his conclusions there that while her book does highlight some flaws/anomolies/questions in the orthodox model it isn’t a solid and well evidenced explanation in itself.

    The theory that the biochemically rich materials used to build/fuel the development of our brains (aka food) for millions of years had an impact on this explosive expansion of our neural architecture seems far more plausible and even explains many of these traits Elaine mentions.

  • Anarchy Pony

    I doubt that you, your “roomate”, or your “roomate’s” ex-wife even exist.

  • Slowly_But_Surely

    Sir David Attenborough, Naturalist And Filmmaker, Calls Humanity ‘A Plague On The Earth’

  • BuzzCoastin

    @$82 an hour
    that whore worked 207 hours that month
    that’s five 40 hour work weeks in a month moron

  • newpapyrus

    There is nothing unusual about primates exploiting aquatic resources for food. Wading bipedally in shallow water and even diving underwater for aquatic plants or shellfish in freshwater and in marine environments has been observed in many monkeys and apes and, of course, is common in primitive human populations. So its certainly not a question as to whether such bipedal aquatic feeding behavior in humans and other primates is possible.

    The question is, is there any evidence that a primate species actually became– specialized– in such aquatic feeding behavior for an extensive period of evolutionary time and whether its possible humans could be descended from such primates.

    The aquatic ape hypothesis was first conceived by Oxford marine biologist, Sir Alister Hardy, back in the 1920s. But he didn’t reveal his hypothesis to the public until 1960 during a lecture and then in an article in the journal, New Scientist.

    Elaine Morgan first encountered the hypothesis after she read a synopsis of it in the Desmond Morris book, the Naked Ape. Then she wrote about it in her own book, the Descent of Woman in the early 1970s.

    Basically, Hardy’s argument was that humans became bipeds and developed a thick subcutaneous fat because they needed to wade into shallow water in order to get access to shellfish.

    I should note that aquatic wading is also one of the leading hypotheses for the origin of bipedalism in archosaurs (dinosaurs, birds, and crocodilians)

    I think its pretty obvious that Oreopithecus evolved its bipedalism as a wading adaptation for exploiting aquatic plants during its 2 million years of isolation on the ancient Mediterranean island of Tuscany-Sardinia.

    The lobulated medulla of the human kidney strongly suggest that humans were once specialized in consuming foods with an extremely high salt content. Since the African continent tends to be deficient in food resources with high levels of salt, human ancestors obviously evolved such kidneys along a marine coastline.

    The fact that humans evolved particular characteristics for the same reasons that most other animals evolve those same characteristics really shouldn’t be all that surprising, IMO.

    Marcel F. Williams

    Marcel F. Williams

  • echar

    Does this mean that sea monkeys are our brethren, whom we happily enslave for our enjoyment? My childhood was a lie.

  • Lady of the Snows

    Humans could never have been aquatic enough to evolve similarities to aquatic mammals through a similar aquatic habitat. There simply wasn’t enough time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/D.Hotkiss Douglas Hotchkiss

    i’m with Devo- we are de-evolving..

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    “as we lack fur, walk upright, have big brains and subcutaneous fat”

    I guess this guy hasn’t seen many MMA/WWF/Nascar fans. Evolution hasn’t carried us as far from our origins as we’d like. Put a gorilla in a beer holding hat and some flannel and drop him in the middle of a crowd of Rangers hockey fans and he’d be damned hard to spot.

  • Noah_Nine

    I prefer the term Drexciyan….

  • aquape


    We did not descend from aquatic apes, of course, although our ancestors were anatomically & physiologically not adapted to running over open plains as some anthropologists still believe.
    Instead, Pleistocene Homo populations simply followed the coasts & rivers in Africa & Eurasia (800,000 years ago, they even reached Flores more than 18 km overseas), google, eg, “econiche Homo”.
    –eBook “Was Man more aquatic in the past?” introd.Phillip Tobias
    http://www.benthamscience.com/ebooks/9781608052448/index.htm
    –guest post at Greg Laden’s blog
    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2013/01/30/common-misconceptions-and-unproven-assumptions-about-the-aquatic-ape-theory

  • aquape


    Humans didn’t descend from aquatic apes, of course, although our ancestors were too slow & heavy for regular running over open plains as some anthropologists still believe. Instead, Pleistocene Homo populations simply followed the coasts & rivers in Africa & Eurasia (800,000 years ago, they even reached Flores more than 18 km overseas), google “econiche Homo”.
    –eBook “Was Man more aquatic in the past?” introd.Phillip Tobias
    http://www.benthamscience.com/ebooks/9781608052448/index.htm
    –guest post at Greg Laden’s blog
    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2013/01/30/common-misconceptions-and-unproven-assumptions-about-the-aquatic-ape-theory

  • Anarchy Pony

    Whoa. Way to raise the bar Pur Singh. Now I will feel woefully inadequate whenever trying to make a point.

  • Lady of the Snows

    I think its fair to say Hardy raised good points but now they’ve mostly been refuted. Yet AAT belief persists as just that, a belief.

  • Lady of the Snows

    The only eccrine sweaters are humans and hippopotamids. Though hippos are aquatic they sweat when on the land and would’ve had no need for it in the water. Its a form of barrier protection in both cases, perhaps because hippos are mud wallowers and a mud wallowing stage in human evolution is maybe implied by the ancient use of earth-derived pigments by humans, not at first in a symbolic context as something like red ochre has practical uses as a sunscreen and a biting insect repellant.

  • Lady of the Snows

    And Rodhocetus was not a cetacean according to one recent analysis (the stupid one that ignored the Signor-Lipps effect).

    Things do go in and out of the water but primates are strangely lacking in that department, maybe our shift to using our hands in food processing makes us better adapted to foraging at the waters edge? Though sea otters dive whilst manipulating objects and using tools, and even sirenians have an ability to grasp their food. Because primate hindlimbs are peramorphic, loss of the hindlimbs to facilitate tail propulsion would be out of the question but something seal-like or at least otter-like would be plausible.

    Why are there no otter-like primates?

    This merfolk descended from macaques should be real but isn’t. The tail propulsion wouldn’t be so advanced as in the below with the pelvis impeding mobility but such a primate could be at least as mobile as giant otters.

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-PW6vhbbVzVU/TiYLYnE0DnI/AAAAAAAADeE/YpfnAHyW1yk/s1600/Mermaid_skeleton_by_empyrean.jpg

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