Aquatic Ape – The Theory Evolves

Photo Credit - Marc Verhaegen

Photo Credit – Marc Verhaegen

Those of you who read my post, Bipedal – The Aquatic Ape Theory, might be interested to learn of this guest blog on Scienceblogs by Marc Verhaegen. He is a much more learned and erudite writer than I, and you will get a much greater depth of information from his post than from my brief outline. Here is a short quotation:

“It is often assumed that Alister Hardy’s and Elaine Morgan’s aquatic ape theory (AAT) suggests that more than 5 Ma (million years ago) there was a semi-aquatic phase in our past (explaining e.g. human fur loss, fatness and upright bipedalism), which was followed by a savanna phase on the African plains. In 2011, AAT proponents published an eBook, ‘Was Man more aquatic in the past?’, which showed a rather different picture of AAT.” – Marc Verhaegen

He was kind enough to comment on my post, and you can see that at the link above. If you are interested in the Aquatic Ape Theory, or in human evolution in general, I encourage you to go and read his Scienceblogs guest blog.


June 09, 2013 – The theory continues to evolve. See this post and ensuing discussion at the blog, The Aquatic Ape.


About arjaybe

Jim has fought forest fires and controlled traffic in the air and on the sea. Now he writes stories.
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15 Responses to Aquatic Ape – The Theory Evolves

  1. emmylgant says:

    I don’t know Jim…. I just don’t know…. Ostrich and have wings and don’t fly; we have brains to solve our problems but we create more of them than we solve… I think evolution is a misnomer. :/

  2. arjaybe says:

    Only if you think that evolution means improving, or that it has a goal. Evolution isn’t a force, it’s a result. Change happens and things evolve as a result. There’s no question of aiming at a desired outcome.

    The source of your disappointment isn’t evolution.

    Okay, lecture over. Off you go.-)


  3. emmylgant says:

    I am not ready to go yet! sulking.
    Wait a second… The result of evolution is survival of the species, no? Do I have that wrong too?

  4. arjaybe says:

    The survival of an individual leads to the survival of that individual’s traits, which can be increasingly expressed in its species as a result. The change in traits over time, as different individuals produce slightly more offspring when their traits are slightly more favorable in changing conditions, is seen as evolution of the species. It is possible that it can lead to the extinction of the species if it evolves to be too closely tied to a particular environment which then changes.

    So it’s more like survival results in evolution than that evolution results in survival.


  5. emmylgant says:

    Hmmm. For instance, Smaller cods survive now that there is a ceiling on the size that can be fished. That originally less desirable trait is spreading and is favorable to their survival now, and we see it as evolution… It does not imply improvement at all, just change…

    Thanks for setting me straight on that. Hmmm. Something I should have picked up on a while back.

  6. susan says:

    Just before human babies are born, they loose their lanugo; fine hair completely covering body. Why? Why don’t babies retain their hair until they must shed it for “brain cooling”?

  7. arjaybe says:

    Hello, Susan. I don’t know why we shed our hair when we do. I’m not even sure that we are (relatively) hairless for any particular reason, whether for the savanna or the water. Those all feel like “Just So” stories to me. It might be for some other reason, or for no reason at all.

    Thank you for your comment.


  8. Hi all, some recent info on AAT.
    Human Evolution soon publishes the proceedings of the symposium ‘Human Evolution: Past, Present & Future’ in London 8-10 May 2013:
    SPECIAL EDITION PART 1 (end 2013)
    Introduction – Peter Rhys-Evans
    1. Human’s Association with Water Bodies: the ‘Exaggerated Diving Reflex’ and its Relationship with the Evolutionary Allometry of Human Pelvic and Brain Sizes – Stephen Oppenheimer
    2. Human Ecological Breadth: Why Neither Savanna nor Aquatic Hypotheses can Hold Water – JH Langdon
    3. Endurance Running versus Underwater Foraging: an Anatomical and Palaeoecological Perspective – Stephen Munro
    4. Wading Hypotheses of the Origin of Human Bipedalism – Algis Kuliukas
    5. The Aquatic Ape Evolves: Common Misconceptions and Unproven Assumptions about the So-Called Aquatic Ape Hypothesis – Marc Verhaegen
    6. The Epigenetic Emergence of Culture at the Coastline: Interaction of Genes, Nutrition, Environment and Demography – CL Broadhurst & Michael Crawford
    SPECIAL EDITION PART 2 (begin 2014) with 12 contributions

  9. 🙂 FYI, some other recent papers:

    -J.Joordens, S.Munro cs 2014 Homo erectus at Trinil on Java used shells for tool production and engraving, Nature doi 10.1038/nature13962
    -S.Munro 2010 Molluscs as ecological indicators in palaeoanthropological contexts, PhD thesis Univ.Canberra
    -J.Joordens cs 2009 Relevance of aquatic environments for hominins: a case study from Trinil (Java, Indonesia), J.hum.Evol.57:656-671
    -S.Cunnane 2005 Survival of the fattest: the key to human brain evolution, World Scient.Publ.Comp.
    -M.Vaneechoutte cs eds 2011 Was Man more aquatic in the past? eBook Bentham Sci.Publ.
    -M.Verhaegen 2013 The aquatic ape evolves: common misconceptions and unproven assumptions about the so-called Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, Hum.Evol.28:237-266 google researchGate marc verhaegen, or independent academia edu/marcverhaegen.

    The open-plain ideas of human evolution are based on the traditional assumption (but logical error) that ape–>human = quadruped–>biped = forest–>savanna.
    All objective data (paleo-environmental, fossil, physiological, nutritional…) show that Pleistocene Homo did not run over the African plains (sweating water + salt = scarce in savannas), but simply followed the African & Eurasian coasts & rivers, beach-combing, diving & wading bipedally for littoral, shallow aquatic & waterside foods (rich in brain-specific nutrients, e.g. DHA).

  10. marc verhaegen says:

    Hi all, thanks a lot.
    For an update on the aquarboreal (hominoids incl australopiths) littoral (early-Pleistocene Homo) theory, google e.g. “Lucy was no human ancestor 2020 verhaegen” + refs therein.

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