All life came from the sea. Eventually plant and animal forms emerged onto the dry ground, and land animals evolved into various species - including the primate ancestors of man. Then at some point in time, key individuals in the family tree of mankind again took to the sea. There they lost their fur and acquired a naked skin like that of the porpoise. This is the “aquatic ape” theory of man’s evolution.
The watery origin of man was first proposed by Alister Hardy, a marine biologist, in 1930. More recently, it has been neatly presented and popularized by Elaine Morgan in her books The Descent Of Woman (1972), The Scars Of Evolution (1990), and The Descent Of The Child (1995).
Some details of this theory may be summarized as follows:
Human ancestors originated in East Africa in the Afar region. In the Pliocene era (ten million to one million years ago), when the human line had become differentiated from the other ape species, the Afar region was submerged except for an island, which is now designated as the Danakil Alps (on the Red Sea coast of Ethiopia). This would have been an island about 230 miles long and 80 miles wide at its larger southern end. There, cut off from the mainland, the pre-human species survived by living much of the time in the water. This means that the original “Eden” was Danakil Island.
The aquatic period in the development of the human species is not without precedent. Other water-adapted creatures include the following:
An elephant-like animal became a manatee (sirenian).
A bear-like animal became a walrus (pinniped).
A pig-like animal became a hippopotamus (ungulate).
A dog-like animal became a seal (cetacean).
A rat-like animal became a beaver (rodent).
A mole-like animal became a platypus (monotremate).
A flying bird became a penguin.
Sea mammals all resemble man in having a naked skin, a fat layer beneath the skin, greatly elastic skin, few apocrine glands, and a proliferation of sebaceous glands. These are all characteristic of aquatic animals, not of grassland species.
Apocrine: “attached to hair” (glands for oil and scent).
Eccrine: “not attached to hair” (glands for sweating thin liquid).
Sebaceous: lubricating oil secretions.
Pheromones: “bearing hormones” (sexually attractive scents produced by apocrince glands).
Most mammals reduce body sweat by panting and sweating. Grazing animals sweat in the hot sun. Gorillas and chimpanzees also pant. Man generally sweats. He also has eccrine glands on his palms, which in monkeys allow a secure grasp on a tree branch.
Apocrine glands are few in aquatic creatures, because the scent they produce would be lost in the water. In the other primates there are many apocrines, but in man they are limited to the armpit, pubic area, navel, ears, and nipples. (Milk glands are modified apocrine glands.)
Marine animals weep in order to discharge excess salt. Such animals include marine crocodiles, marine snakes, marine lizards, marine turtles, and marine mammals (seals and sea otters). Like his aquatic cousins, man also weeps salty tears.
Loss of Hair:
Wet fur on land is of no use. And fur in water is an impediment to speed. Therefore, aquatic or amphibious animals are generally hairless. Elephants and pigs, like hippos, became nearly hairless during a period when they were swamp dwellers. (Retention of head hair in man was likely for protection from the sun as his head projected above the water; its secondary purpose was sexual attraction.) Elephants, pigs, and human beings are now mostly land animals.
Totally aquatic animals, like whales, have shed all their fur and replaced it with a fat layer. But partially aquatic animals, like seals, which go ashore to breed, have kept some of their fur (which is the best insulator in air) and supplemented it with a layer of blubber (which is the best insulator in water).
Charles Darwin wrote: “Whales and porpoises, dugongs and hippopotamus are naked, and this may be advantageous to them for gliding through the water; nor would it be injurious to them from the loss of warmth, as the species which inhabit the colder regions are protected by a thick layer of blubber.” He did not mention the possibility that this could have any relevance to the human condition.
The phenomenon of the “naked ape” does not make sense when the large population of hairy land-dwellers is considered. And so, the best resolution to this problem can be found in a statement by Stephen Jay Gould: “Remnants of the past that don’t make sense in present terms - the useless, the odd, the peculiar, the incongruous - are the signs of history.”
Hibernating animals only require seasonal fat. Aquatic animals need fat for insulation and buoyancy. A human baby’s fat is sixteen percent of body weight, but a baboon infant’s fat is only three percent. A sixteen year old girl has twenty-seven percent body fat. If she falls below twenty-two percent, her menstrual period stops. This is common for anorexics, athletes, and dancers. Also, fat is a secondary source for estrogen production. Significantly, the only sport in which females are superior to males is long-distance swimming.
Mouth breathing allows a swimmer to gulp large quantities of air. The ability to breathe deeply and control the rate of exhaling enables exceptional human vocal abilities. A human baby is a nose breather for the first three months. It can nurse and breathe at the same time, just as a horse can drink and breathe simultaneously. After three months, the human larynx descends and the baby learns to mouth breathe. At that period, the baby may fail to breathe properly; crib deaths usually occur at that time. Other animals with the descended larynx are water creatures: the sea lion and the dugong. Having the windpipe below the palate brings the possibility of liquid getting into it. In marsupials the windpipe opens above the palate, so they are voiceless.
Whales and seals have valvular nostrils, and human beings retain some motility of nostril muscles. The nostrils of runners and swimmers will flare as they take deep breaths. When a man dives into water, his heartbeat slows down to conserve oxygen, just as does that of a seal.
Neoteny is the retention of infantile or juvenile characteristics in the adult. For example, the human female retains the hairless face, body fat, and high voice of the juvenile. Enlargement of the brain is an adaptation of neoteny, which retains the large brain-to-body ratio of infants. Neoteny is the means by which aquatic animals achieved bodies best adapted to a water environment - like that of the womb. Neoteny in the porpoise is very evident: large brain size, hairless skin, neckless trunk, atrophied limbs, no ears, no fingers, no breastbone, and undeveloped ribs.
Allometry is the tendency to giantism. Animals in which the male is larger than the female are those in which males fight other males to maintain harems. This is also called “sexual dimorphism.” Such male animals have larger teeth or horns than females, and also greater strength and manes or beards to protect the throat area. For millions of years the human species has been polygamous, and that was long before the Adam and Eve story paired one man with one woman and made that the ideal relationship.
Because of high rates of infant mortality in the early history of mankind, the survival of the species was dependent on the production of more offspring. This was achieved by means of harems, in which a single male would have kept and defended his right to three or more females. (The number of women in the harem was probably related to the fertility of the male, i.e., the sperm count of the average male drops after 3.5 ejaculations per week.) However, an extended harem might have included women who were already pregnant, who were infertile during lactation, and who were experiencing the infertility of their menstrual periods. Low rates of infant mortality in modern times do not justify the continuance of harems, but it is interesting to note that seventy-four percent of primitive human societies remain polygamous to this day.
The human female’s vagina is retracted and covered by a membrane, the hymen, just as a seal’s ears are interiorized and its nipples are retractable and covered by a flap of skin.
Aquatic species require the use of a penis. These include the whale, the crocodile, the turtle, the swan, the duck, and the goose. A penis is absent in most birds and reptiles. Penis size is related to the accessability of the vagina. The human penis is five inches long, as compared to three inches for the chimpanzee and one inch for the gorilla. In the two latter species the vagina is directly accessible when the male mounts from behind.
The following chart is a summation of characteristics that show the kinship of man to both primates and aquatic species.
Palinosts are animals which, after adapting to a new environment, then return to the former one. For example, all snakes are palinosts, having come from four-legged creatures that adapted to a burrowing life. After losing their limbs and becoming streamlined, they returned to living above ground.
In the case of mankind, proto-humans left the savannah for the sea at some point. There they found an increased supply of nourishment, because the coastal waters in tropical climes support the highest proportion of living creatures to any environment on the earth.
In fact, bipedalism could well have developed in response to the need for wading in water. It has been noted in the proboscis monkeys of Borneo that they will regularly wade through streams carrying their infants. And constant practice has made them so accustomed to doing this that bands of them will often walk bipedally in the forest.
AQUATIC APE THEORY
This comparison chart shows that man is a primate with features common to aquatic animals.
CHARACTERISTIC HUMAN AQUATIC PRIMATES OTHER
BEINGS ANIMALS ANIMALS
Hairless Skin Yes Yes, ocean No No
Thick Skin Yes Yes, if hairless No No
Sub-skin Fat Layer Yes Yes, blubber No No,
(insulation, buouyancy) except hibernators
Oil Glands in Skin Yes Yes Few No, Few
Mammal Nutrition Yes Yes Yes Yes, No
(modified oil glands)
Bipedal Locomotion Yes No No Yes
(allows breathing when birds, kangaroos
walking upright in water)
Lower Torso Ribs Yes Yes Yes Yes, No
missing to allow for pregnancy
Descended Larynx Yes Yes No No
Larger Male Yes Walrus, Yes Yes, No
to defend a harem Sea Lion
Pheromones Few None Apes and other animals have
(sexual scent) Small olfactory lobe large olfactory lobes in the
in the brain. brain for scent detection.
Copulation Yes Yes No No
ventro-ventral whales, porpoises except for
(face to face) dugongs, manatees, orangutans
beavers, sea otters
Note: Aquatic mammals without hair include cetaceans (whales, sea lions, seals, porpoises), dugongs, manatees, hippopotamuses, and elephants. Lake-dwelling aquatic animals with fur are otters, beavers, and platypuses.