Sunday, June 20, 2010

Desmond Morris on the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis

David Attenborough on the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis


Jason Ribeiro said...

When I first heard of the aquatic ape hypothesis I didn't like it and still don't like it really. First, there is an error in the video, we are not the only primates to swim. There is a monkey that can swim but the species name escapes me now.

If we weren't aquatic apes before we could certainly be called that now, though this is not a principle environment for us. We are visitors in the water, not natives.

Could hunting in the water go back hundreds of thousands of years ago? I'm sure it did but bipedal-ism would seem to be the precursor to this, not the cause of it. Could it be that bipedal-ism just so happens to enable us to swim very well? This sounds more plausible. I like the idea of energy savings as the reason for bipeds. As we may be good swimmers, people are much better long distance walkers and runners.

As for webbed hands and feet, I'm just guessing that might be a genetic variation like being able to curl one's tongue. The webbing is too small to do much good in the water. If it was bigger then it would impede the use of our hands.

Marcel F. Williams said...

I believe that most monkeys can swim and often a lot better than humans. But the human body appears to be designed for swimming and diving underneath the water. Diving gives you access to shell fish. And no primate can swim and dive underwater as well as a human.

It was a renowned British marine biologist, Alister Hardy, who first conceived the idea back in the 1920s but kept it a secret until 1960. I discussed this subject with Desmond Morris and he actually inherited all of Hardy's unpublished writings on this subject after Alister Hardy died in 1985.

I believe that the best evidence that humans underwent a specialized semiaquatic marine phase is in the human kidneys. Humans are the only primate that normally has kidneys with medullary pyramids, a characteristic found in all species of marine mammals except for the dugong which exhibits a rather odd type of medullary lobulation.

I published a paper on this subject a few years ago called,"Morphological evidence of marine adaptations in human kidneys."

Anyone who would like a pdf copy of this paper, can send me an email at:

DDeden said...

Marcel, in reference to your mention of okapis with marine-like kidneys, this might be of interest:

"Field observations indicate that the okapi's mineral and salt requirements are filled primarily by a sulfurous, slightly salty, reddish clay found near rivers and streams." Wikipedia - okapi


Marcel F. Williams said...

The giraffe, the closest relative to the okapi, also has medullary pyramids in its kidneys. So its likely that the okapi medullary pyramids were probably inherited from an extremely ancient common ancestor of the okapi and the giraffe.

I discuss this in more detail in my chapter in the upcoming book on the aquatic ape hypothesis.

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