President Obama, David Attenborough and the Aquatic Ape

Photograph of David Attenborough at ARKive's launch in Bristol, England, author Wildscreen

Photograph of David Attenborough at ARKive’s launch in Bristol, England, author Wildscreen

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

High profile British Climate Advocate David Attenborough, who in 2015 was invited to the Whitehouse by President Obama to advise on climate issues, has come under fire for promoting a discredited “Aquatic Ape” theory.

Sorry David Attenborough, we didn’t evolve from ‘aquatic apes’ – here’s why

Occasionally in science there are theories that refuse to die despite the overwhelming evidence against them. The “aquatic ape hypothesis” is one of these, now championed by Sir David Attenborough in his recent BBC Radio 4 series The Waterside Ape.

The hypothesis suggests that everything from walking upright to our lack of hair, from holding our breath to eating shellfish could be because an aquatic phase in our ancestry. Since the theory was first suggested more than 55 years ago, huge advances have been made in the study of human evolution and our story is much more interesting and complicated than suggested by the catch-all aquatic ape hypothesis.

In 1960, marine biologist Alister Hardy published an article in New Scientist, titled: Was man more aquatic in the past? He re-told the familiar tale of the evolution of land animals from ancient fish, and then considered the return of various groups of reptiles, birds and mammals to an aquatic existence: ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, crocodiles, sea-snakes, penguins, whales, dolphins and porpoises, manatees and dugongs, and seals – as well as polar bears, otters and water voles, who hunt in water. Then he suggested that many of the unique characteristics of humans and their ancestors, marking them out as different from the other apes, could be explained as adaptations to spending time in water.

Hardy put forward all sorts of features which could be explained as “aquatic adaptations”: our swimming ability – and our enjoyment of it; loss of body hair, as well as an arrangement of body hair that he supposed may have reduced resistance in the water; curvy bodies; and the layer of fat under our skin. He even suggested that our ability to walk upright may have developed through wading, with the water helping to support body weight.

All the suggested anatomical and physiological adaptations can be explained by other hypotheses, which fit much better with what we actually know about the ecology of ancient hominins. Hairlessness, for instance, is only a feature of fully aquatic mammals such as whales and dolphins. Semi-aquatic mammals such as otters and water voles are extremely furry. Sexual selection and adaptations to heat loss better explain our pattern of body hair. Sexual selection may also explain our body fat distribution, which differs between the sexes. Voluntary breath control is more likely to be related to speech than to diving.

Read more:

I’m open to the idea that early humans spent a lot of time living on beaches. Gathering shellfish is a very easy way to get a decent high protein meal – kids in my old hometown used to gather more shellfish than we could carry in a matter of minutes.

But suggesting humans went through a “Man from Atlantis” phase seems a bit far fetched. The truth is we are quite poorly adapted to water. Humans are slow swimmers. Our eyes don’t work well underwater. Thanks to our lack of waterproof fur, getting out of water even in the tropics is sometimes a rather chilly experience, until you dry off.

323 thoughts on “President Obama, David Attenborough and the Aquatic Ape

    • I can see one right now in the Marina Rinaldi swimsuit advert that I’m being shown below the main article.

      • Maybe Alister Hardy was on to something.
        Way back in my earlier times, I sometimes thought I was a fish.
        I can remember going for a Christmas vacation to Oneroa or maybe Eastern Beach, and after doing my morning chores, I would go down to the beach and jump in the water, and stay there pretty much all day. Sometimes I would climb around the rocks and find a remote rock off the shore I could stand on and fish all day. I wouldn’t stop fishing and go back home, until the sun was kissing the water.
        Well invariably this got my A*** tanned (not by the sun) , but it didn’t matter, because I would do the same thing tomorrow.
        So maybe I am aquatised to some degree. Not so much any more because due to climate change from there to California, and the lack of failure of the thermo-haline circulation, transporter, we have a south going cold water current along our coast that comes with an arctic blast from Alaska, so one would need to evolve more in the gorilla direction so become un-nakedised or else evolution would eliminate me from the jean pool.
        I’ll have to study up on it and see if I agree with him.

      • George,
        Oneroa and Eastern Beach – and of course Takapuna Beach, Mission Bay and the Parnell Baths etc are all gong to be inundated according to our government and respective city councils.
        A one metre increase in sea level is going to happen, according to our scientifical minded politicians, and local councils are expected to start taking precautions right now!
        Of course the catch is that the sea level rise is still stuck at 1.7mm per year which it has been since records began.
        Still it is nice to have a chance to pressure normal people off the coasts such as happened and still happening in Christchurch – dont you think?.
        In spite of this people still seriously warn me that the (EPA) of the US Government seems to think that sea level has risen 10 inches since 1880.!! Mia Culpa!
        Yup I used to spend many summer days at Eastern Beach as well:)

      • George – ‘eliminate me from the jean pool’
        Well, yes. Wearing Jeans in a pool (or the ocean) probably Would eliminate you 😛 😉

      • Roger, I would worry about the rate of concrete rise, rather than sea level.
        I used to bike down a street that ran down towards the harbour, from near Three Lamps and dead ended with a white railing that stopped me from going over a cliff down on to the beach. There was a small pier jst off to the right of that where I was heading to go and catch Piper off the pier with floats, and fly larvae (AKA maggots) for bait.
        The white rail is still there, but the beach and the pier are now under the motorway leading to the bridge.
        And yes I have a scar on my chin, and another on my shin, from bailing out off my bike, when the brakes failed, and I had to try and make that corner towards the pier, or go flying over that railing.
        I almost made it too, but ended up flying over a fence, and up into a tree (actually ended up on top of a branch) and then fell off onto the sidewalk.
        And I see I did hook an ersatz beaver down there. Sometimes I can’t get a bite.

      • Michael,
        No Fair!
        You get a swimsuit ad.
        I’ve got a grim post-Stalinist 70’s advert from one of our train Companies.
        Not Southern Rail, for whom I reserve the – new- eighth circle of Dante-and-Auto’s Inferno, but almost as bad.
        And tomorrow, at 0645, I’m resuming my joust with the railway ‘system’.

      • I hadn’t come across the aquatic ape hypothesis before but there’s a point that needs to be made before this is sneered at too much.. From the article is a debunk point : “Compared with other animals, we are not actually that good at swimming, and our skin leaks as well, letting in water so that our fingers become prune-like after a long bath.
        I’m going to jump hard on that one as it’s simply not true, and is a myth worth debunking every time we see it – In fact “People often assume that wrinkling is the result of water passing into the outer layer of the skin and making it swell up. But researchers have known since the 1930s that the effect does not occur when there is nerve damage in the fingers. This points to the change being an involuntary reaction by the body’s autonomic nervous system — the system that also controls breathing, heart rate and perspiration. In fact, the distinctive wrinkling is caused by blood vessels constricting below the skin.
        I can confirm this from own experienced nerve damage and seeing this effect. So the next point from the SA article is worth noting too – “Laboratory tests confirmed a theory that wrinkly fingers improve our grip on wet or submerged objects, working to channel away the water like the rain treads in car tires” DOES make the interesting point that we clearly have a semi-aquatic adaptation that’s common to all men and interestingly not that common (do other examples exist?) elsewhere in primates.
        The ‘we leak water’ story was taught to me in school some 40+ years back when I was very young and I swallowed it .. the next day questioning it when after the nightly bath I noticed only my fingers and toes swelled up – the dopey teacher told me I was wrong and all our skin swelled – this was just one of many examples I experienced when the authority-figure teacher was clearly wrong and oblivious as to how wrong they were (I got caned a lot at school for questioning their authority).
        It very much strikes me this IS an aquatic adaptation with our fingers and feet becoming wrinklier.. not as a result of ‘absorbing water’ but as an autonomic response to contact with water.. An adaptation that gives us a great advantage in picking up wet objects..
        I’d be keen other opinions on ‘leaking skin’ and the possibility this is a semi-aquatic adaptation.

      • Karl

        In fact, the distinctive wrinkling is caused by blood vessels constricting below the skin.

        i know nothing about the point you raise, nor have I thought about it, but the above passage struck me.
        Water is usually far below body temperature, and heat loss is much greater in water than it is in air. What you are describing is a process that may result in a restriction in blood flow thereby reducing peripheral heat loss thereby retaining core temperature. Thus this could be part of a safety mechanism enabling us to stay longer in a cold environment.

      • adding to the conversation, there’s a very interesting post by Michael Crawford who points to a number of interesting adaptations and shortcomings in humans that offer a good pointer to semi-aquatic evolution, one I’d forgotten was the issue of iodine deficiency .. a horrendous condition not suffered by those on the water’s edge – he raises many other valid points and his post (linked) is worth reading.

      • The chief problem with the “aquatic ape” hypothesis was simply the prior assumptions by physical anthropologists and paleontologists. The suggestion was simply an attempt to place all the known traits that typify humans into a single explanatory frame. One factor included in the hypothesis was the – at the time – high association between early hominids (hominins these days) and paleo-lacustrian environments. Lucy for instance was found near Lake Tanganyika. Other fossils derived from similar environments. It was a similar over-generalization to “cave men” as a term for all those human fossils from caves. That has changed steadily and more importantly, some thought has gone into learning how taphonomy works. Lakes and streams provide good geological preservation potential compare to many dryland situations. The hypothesis – or conjecture – is still not a totally unreasonable view. While we have strong adaptations for cursorial hunting, some traits such as the comparatively well developed layer of subcutaneous fat we can develop are more common in aquatic forms. The fact is, there are existing species of monkeys that swim and dive in search of food even now. They don’t show the “adaptations” we do and yet they spend more time in the water.

      • I started watching this late one night a few years ago. Probably 2013 when it came out. Since it was on the Discovery Channel I assumed it was a real documentary. They did a clever job sucking you in. They had several boring, skeptical scientists debunking the new “mer-man evidence” as it was presented so it seemed real. And they did not have any technical effects as would a movie like sharknado. They brought up the Aquatic Ape hypothesis, had an old and weathered black and white photo (from Portugal even!) of a whale stuck with a bunch of odd spears, and had a partial triangular shaped skull that was interesting. I think I made it more than 30 minutes into it, probably to this scene above until I saw the hands and face of the merman until I realized it had to be fake and started googling. So, they did a good job. Of course, had it been on the SciFi channel I might have stopped watching after 5 minutes.

    • The hypothesis suggests that everything from walking upright to our lack of hair, from holding our breath to eating shellfish could be because an aquatic phase in our ancestry.

      Well, this is great news. It means we don’t need to worry about global warming and rising sea levels. We’ll just adapt back to being aquatic apes.
      All just part of a perfectly natural cycle !!

    • So sayith – Eric Worrall

      I’m open to the idea that early humans spent a lot of time living on beaches.

      Glad to hear you say that, Eric W, because that is exactly where our early hominid ancestors lived, died and evolved to be the Homo sapiens sapiens that populate the earth today. The only place that early hominoid fossils have been found is on or near ancient lake shores such as the Riff Valley in East Africa. DUH, no fossils have been found out on the Savannahs where the “experts” claim humans evolved.
      And also sayith – Eric Worrall

      But suggesting humans went through a “Man from Atlantis” phase seems a bit far fetched.

      And right you are again, Eric W, ……. about it being “far fetched”, that is.
      Eric, the “old-school” religious believers in/of the …. Out of the Trees and Across the Hot African Savannahs Theory of Human Evolution …… literally hate, dislike, deny and/or will discredit the Aquatic Ape Theory of human evolution at any opportunity that they get,
      And Eric, there is absolutely no difference between …… the dastardly, devious claims of the religious believing numbskulls that support the African Savannahs Theory of Human Evolution and their “suggesting humans went through a “Man from Atlantis” phase” …… and the dastardly, devious claims of the religious believing numbskulls that support the Biblical Creation of Human Evolution and their “suggesting that humans evolved from monkeys”.
      DUH, the “consensus of opinions” that support the junk-science claims of the Out of the Trees and Across the Hot African Savannahs Theory of Human Evolution …… is as silly, asinine and stupid as is the “consensus of opinions” that support the junk-science claims of CO2 causing Anthropogenic Global Warming Climate Change.
      Eric, the fact that the total epidermis of the human body contains “sweat glands” that secrete copious amounts of both water (H2O) and salt (NACL) pretty much negates the Hot African Savannahs Theory of Human Evolution. And I can define another dozen or so “negators” iffen you wish.
      Sam C

      • Samuel C Cogar And I can define another dozen or so “negators” iffen you wish.
        Yes, I’d like to see some more or other studies. Question has always facinated me. We hold a premium to waterfront properties though a few well placed tsunamis may have deterred oceanfront. The sweat cooling system works well (excepting humid FL in Sept.) But it’s horribly inefficient for both water and salt. I guess you might get enough salt from game animals but it also seems to play well that you live where the fresh water meets the sea. My Uncle and Dad used to collect arrow heads from the roads and other places; I don’t know how accurate but some have be “dated” at 15K years old. Doesn’t fit the narrative…

      • “The only place that early hominoid fossils have been found is on or near ancient lake shores such as the Riff Valley in East Africa. DUH, no fossils have been found out on the Savannahs where the “experts” claim humans evolved”
        Er…fossils are only found in sites where fossilization is possible. Savannahs are not good for fossilization, rainforests are even worse. Lakeshores, riverbanks and coasts are good. Caves are even better. And a lot of early hominoid fossils have actually been found in caves. Almost all south-african ones for example.

      • tty,
        Not true.
        Australopiths have been found in a variety of depositional environments, to include caves. They extend from Ethiopia to South Africa, along the line of the widening Rift. West of it, the forests persisted, home to ancestors of chimpa and bonobos. East of it, our ancestors evolved on the spreading savannas, as the world cooled.
        Some have been found on lake shores and in flood plains, but that’s because their remains are much more likely to have been preserved under those conditions. Lucy fell out of a tree onto a bank and was by pure luck soon covered up.
        Where you don’t find our ancestors is anywhere near the sea. They evolved in the Rift Valley, which was then already dry most of the time, with a series of lakes and some seasonal flooding. They evolved upright walking on the savanna, while maintaining good climbing ability. This is plainly evident from foot evolution, which gets better understood with each passing decade.
        With ever more specimens, we can also watch the transition from arboreal to terrestrial existence in detail. Few mammals show as good a gradual transition series of species and genera as the hominid line.
        Here’s a fairly recently found transitional Australopith-Homo form:
        We also now know approximately where and when the gene mutations occurred which allowed our brains to keep growing.

      • So sayith, tty

        Savannahs are not good for fossilization,

        And the African Savannahs were not a good place for hairless pre-human hominoids to be “quickly” bipedally walking around trying to find something to eat ……. before a predator with BIG teeth could take a BIG bite out of their asses.
        And the claim that those hairless pre-human hominoids were capable of catching and killing four (4) legged prey animals by “quickly” running bipedally amongst the brush, briars and thorny vegetation …. is utterly preposterous. Not only would those bipedally running hominoids depleted their body’s necessary supply of water (H2O) and salt (NACL) …… but their running “naked” amongst the brush, briars and thorns would have cut, slashed and gashed their bare skin to a “bloody” mess.

      • So sayith, Gabro – September 18, 2016 at 1:11 pm

        Australopiths have been found in a variety of depositional environments, to include caves. They extend from Ethiopia to South Africa, along the line of the widening Rift.

        But, … but, … but Gabo, who cares where the fossils of “Australopiths have been found”, …. given the fact that the origin of the Genus Homo is still unknown …… because there is no fossil evidence that connects the Genus Homo to the Genus Australopithecus. To wit:
        Your weazelworded rhetoric of unimportant facts belies your devious intentions.

      • Samuel C Cogar, you say “But, … but, … but Gabo, who cares where the fossils of “Australopiths have been found”, …. given the fact that the origin of the Genus Homo is still unknown …… because there is no fossil evidence that connects the Genus Homo to the Genus Australopithecus. ”
        And then you go on to cast aspersion, with “Your weazelworded rhetoric of unimportant facts belies your devious intentions.”
        Perhaps you should look in the mirror for conveniently leaving details out of your demonizing. Several fossils in the Australopithecus line have caused extensive debating about their classification over the years. That they have been left as Australopithecus is generally a situation of cautious uncertainty while waiting for more evidence to settle the debate. It is not, as you try to portray with your graphic of ancestry, a case of certainty.

      • Tty,
        I misread you. My bad.
        Sam C,
        The fact of sweat glands supports the savanna theory (fact, actually) and negates the aquatic lunacy.
        If sweating is to excrete salt, why do we do it copiously when hot but not when cold?

      • @ Arsivo – September 19, 2016 at 8:21 am
        Are you really that clueless ….. or just desperately trying to cover for Gabo’s miseducation in, of and/or about human evolution?
        Do you not realize that this quoted statement of yours, to wit:
        Arsivo said:

        the Australopithecus line have caused extensive debating about their classification over the years.

        Absolutely, positively, confirms without question, …. what Sam C stated above, which was, to wit:

        there is no fossil evidence that connects the Genus Homo to the Genus Australopithecus

        Arsivo, a “consensus of opinions” is neither factual evidence or positive proof of anything associated with the Science of the Natural World.

      • @ Gabro – September 19, 2016 at 9:56 am

        Sam C,
        The fact of sweat glands supports the savanna theory (fact, actually) and negates the aquatic lunacy.

        Prove it, …… Gabo, …… put your money where your mouth is …… by taking a trip out to the desert southwest in the southern part of the State of Arizona, USA, ……. and then stripping down naked, including your shoes ……. before you go jogging across that hot sand and rocks in the noon day Sun ……. looking for a Jackrabbit to eat for lunch which you are positive you can “bipedally” run it down and catch it …… before there is too great of a loss of your body’s NACL and H2O [due to the fact all your sweat glands are secreting copious amounts of salt-laden sweat to keep your body cool] which will cause your body to collapse and fall down ….. and you will die right there in the noon day Sun. Or die from hypothermia when the nighttime temperature “chills” your naked body.
        Put your money up and prove your “savannah” claim, Gabo, ….. prove that you will survive that “bipedal desert run” unscathed and healthy …… and not be one of these statistics, to wit:.

        Authorities have discovered 252 bodies in the Arizona desert over the past year — the remains of migrants who died trying to cross into the U.S. illegally.
        Hypothermia is one of the most common causes of immigrant border deaths.

      • @ Gabro – September 19, 2016 at 9:56 am

        If sweating is to excrete salt, why do we do it copiously when hot but not when cold?

        Gabo, educate yourself instead of being “brainwashed” with junk-science garbage by you mantors.
        Don’t you realize that when our early pre-human ancestors were evolving bipedalism, loss of thick body hair, epidermal sweat glands, etc., there was NO SUCH THING as “hot” or ”cold” surface temperatures, weather or climate in the locale or location in which they were residing during the tens-of-thousands-of-years when they were evolving to be the precursor of the present day Genus Homo.
        So, iffen there was NO SUCH THING as “hot” …… then there was no “survival need” for evolving a completely different body mechanism for cooling the pre-human body. “DUH”, no other animal that evolved on the hot, dry African savannahs have “sweat glands” in the total epidermal layer/covering of their physical body.
        Gabo, have you ever visited a tropical island, such as one of the Virgin Islands? You should, because, no “hot” or “cold” there either, to wit:

        Virgin Islands Weather
        In the U.S. Virgin Islands there is one season, summer! Average air temperatures in a “winter” month like January; and a “summer” month like July; vary only by 5 or 6 degrees Fahrenheit. Air temperature all year round is typically in the low to mid-80s (27 to 29 Celsius). In “winter” months it rarely gets below 75 degrees (24 Celsius). Even when it rains the air temperature remains warm.
        Read more @

      • If you consider the human posture and gait, they are well developed for a ground level scavenger and hunter who depends on sight rather than scent. The long head hair acts like a hat. In fact, upright posture an walking could be the ground level equivalent of a vulture or raptor soaring. Sweating and hairlessness work together to produce an unparalleled long-distance runner. We tend to down play our physical abilities but the fact is, a conditioned human can out run any other mammal on the planet except possibly some kangaroo species. We can’t run faster, but we really can run farther. Traveling in a pack or gang (there’s a sociological investigation!) would allow groups of humans to confront and steal kills from most other predators who tend to back off when outnumbered.

      • So sayith Duster – September 20, 2016 at 12:03 pm

        If you consider the human posture and gait, they are well developed for a ground level scavenger and hunter who depends on sight rather than scent.

        I can agree with the above, Duster, simply because a ground level scavenger and/or hunter, be it a present day human or an ancient human relative, has/had to depend on their eyesight, rather than their noses, when hunting for marine or sea food, …… be it on tidal flats, shallow water or deep water.
        Duster, unless one has weapons to carry and use, which requires an advanced brain for inventing, one cannot easily survive in the forests, in the fields or on the African savannahs unless they have a highly developed sense of sight, of hearing and/or of smelling, …… three (3) highly developed physical attributes that present day humans, nor their ancient relatives processed.
        I know of no land animal that hunts for a marine/water based food source that uses their hearing or smelling to locate said food. (and bullfrogs are amphibians so their “croaking” doesn’t count)
        Also sayith Duster

        but the fact is, a conditioned human can out run any other mammal on the planet except possibly some kangaroo species. We can’t run faster, but we really can run farther.

        Yada, yada, yada, …….. your ignorant mimicry of “junk science” soundbites belies your miseducation in/of the natural sciences.
        Quit talking silly, it is not and was not …… a marathon or endurance race that early humans and other mammals were engaged in to determine a winner.
        Without an exceptional sense of hearing, smelling and/or tracking ability, ….. once the human hunters “loses sight” of the fleeing mammal, …… THE RACE IS OVER and the mammal won. (And “DUH”, a bipedal human runner will go “ass-over-elbows” if he/she attempts to turn as quickly as a quadrupedal running mammal.)

      • If I live on the savanna, any pool is liable to be dangerous. I’d take to the shade. I’d use my free hands to carry food I collected up into the safety of a tree.
        And our ancestors did live on the savanna. There were the lakes of the Rift Valley, and we lived near them, but they were home to crocs and other deadly creatures. Lions hung out around water holes, too.
        Birds of prey dive on fish and dove on our ancestors, too. The Taung child (Dart, 1924) was killed by an eagle or other large, predatory bird, not a leopard. Life in the open was dangerous.

      • “I’d use my free hands to carry food I collected up into the safety of a tree.”
        Free hands while climbing a tree? . . Does not sound like safety to me, Gabro ; )

      • We have two hands, so you can climb with one and hold with another. And hominids traveled in bands, so that one can hand stuff up to another. As with babies.

      • You can make up anything you like . . I get it, but the creatures you just conjured would have to already be “evolved” far beyond any apes on the planet, right?

      • I think apes that took up throwing rocks and sticks as a defensive response, is a better explanation for the gradual evolution from tree climber to walking leg, grasping hand, big brained ape, since the response could begin among apes that were not already humanish. It’s got all sorts of good story potential for how apes got to be humanish, so they do the sorts of things you imagine up there . . .
        Yer welcome ; )

      • “What do you do on a very hot day? Do you sit in the sun or dive into the pool?”
        Sit at the side of the pool and watch the girls in bikinis?

      • John,
        I’m not making anything up.
        Those creatures and we humans today were and are all apes. There is no “beyond”. We all share with the other apes certain characteristic derived traits.
        Humans are African great apes, most closely related to chimps and gorillas. Our next closest relative are Asian great apes, ie orangutans. Then the lesser apes, like gibbons. Then Old World monkeys, then New World monkeys (some of which still have claws instead of nails on their fingers), then tarsiers. All of the above lack the ability to make vitamin C, due to having inherited a broken version of the gene for its manufacture. Next are the other primates, lorises and lemurs.
        We share blood groups with gorillas. All the other great apes have 48 chromosomes. We have only 46 because two smaller standard ape chromosomes fused in our ancestral line to form human #2. This mutation is associated with upright walking.
        Humans and chimps really ought to be in the same genus, since we’re more closely related than horses and donkeys, both in Equus. Plus our australopithecine ancestors as well. All belong in Homo.
        Chimps brains are far better at remembering spatial locations than are ours.

      • JohnKnight
        September 17, 2016 at 11:54 pm
        Humans are now, always have been and always will be apes. We share with them certain derived traits, such as shoulder blades on our backs, large size, no tails and characteristic molar design, etc. Other derived traits we also share with Old World monkeys, such as nails rather than claws on all digits, immobile ears and loss of vitamin C-making capability (which broken gene we also share with New World monkeys and tarsiers).
        The African great apes, with whom we share a more recent common ancestor, could be seen as more “humanish” than orangutans, but not by much. All the great apes are more humanish than the lesser apes, monkeys, tarsiers and the prosimian primates.

      • “I’m not making anything up.”
        Of course you’re making things up, Gabro, regardless of what actually happened . . imagination is imagination, not time travel.

      • I’d use my free hands to carry food I collected up into the safety of a tree.

        Gabro, …… if you watch the History Channel on TV….. you will surely see just how safe it is “up a tree” on the African savannah. I’m sure your learning of “the facts” about “up a tree” will be quite painful for you.

    • living in the tropics, the lack of hair is a huge problem when dealing with biting insects such as flies and mosquitoes. you cannot escape these by climbing a tree. absent a smoky fire, the only escape is to jump into the water.

      • The longer hair of most mammals doesn’t protect them from insects. Human ancestors probably did as elephants do and covered themselves with mud when they needed to be active during the hours in which the bugs are most active. Otherwise, they’d seek shelter in caves or other cool places.
        The advantages of our cooling system, which permitted us to be active when other carnivores weren’t and to run long distances, far outweighed any disadvantage to having short body hair. Clearly, we would never have evolved such a system if we lived in the water.
        The suggestion is ridiculous, preposterous and was properly rejected by all anthropologists when proposed in 1960, even before the Leakey’s discoveries in Olduvai Gorge. Only Morgan’s crusade revived it among acolytes without any background in physical anthro or paleontology, like the gullible Sir David.

      • There ya go again, Grabo, …. spouting that “junk-science” crapolla of …. “if we lived in the water“.
        A “closed mind”, like most every avid and passionate religious believer in/of Biblical Creation.

  1. My theory after watching David At. for many years is that his family tree evolved from the “twit” bird species, never on the branch long enough to form a sound opinion,

    • And this is how one argues about science: insult people and try very hard to not look at the other side’s arguments. I am 100% on the side of ‘humans during the PREVIOUS Interglacial, evolved the talent of going into water to both cool off…for it was a hotter Interglacial than this one by a long shot, and then hang out in the water, until the sun is past the zenith then onto the shore to go mess around for dinner and then sleeping in the reeds and rushes, etc. Sort of like living in Miami Beach or Hawaii.
      Ever been to Hawaii? I have. Could strip down and do the naked ape thing a lot there.

      • Ever live there ? It gets cold enough (to them) to wear winter coats at times . While the newcomers are comfortable in shorts….did see some almost naked “apes” though … :))

      • Interestingly enough, I was in Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City) during Tet a half decade ago when I thought it would be interesting to visit the zoo and see what animals they kept there. Turned out the animals inside the fences weren’t nearly as interesting as the animals outside the fences. Since it was winter (Tet coming at the end of winter), there were women out in their winter’s finest fur coats (yes, I have pictures) ostensibly to keep warm (though I hope it was more about peacocking).
        It was 33C that day, and about 95% humidity.

  2. I am a lot happier when David Attenborough promotes the discredited “Aquatic Ape” theory, (which is harmless to humans) than when he promotes the discredited ‘Global Warming/Climate Change’ theory that has the potential to severely damage human civilization.

    • Except it is not ‘discredited’. Why do people here think ‘science consensus’ is the end of the story? If so, we would still be back in pre-Galileo science.

      • Well let’s say for the moment that we agree with the theory; except that it so far has failed to severely damage human civilization.
        So how long are we supposed to wait for evidence of such severe damage to materialize ??
        We are a little more rational than the cargo cultists of New Guinea, who wait on the top of hills for the planes to come.
        And it’s along time since we waited for the sun to rise at Stonehenge.
        But then there is the occasional Reverend JIm Jones episode that suggests we are still quite primitive in our beliefs.

      • When the “messenger” is also the interpreter of “the message”, and moreover has only his own notoriety for credentials, then it is not an ad hominem assault to address it in those terms.
        I like watching his programs; I like animals; I like birds; his programs show all of those taken by sophisticated Canon photo-optics, far beyond my means.
        Well I also watched the movie “Mondo Cane” years ago. I suppose I’m supposed to believe that represents who we are or were.

      • george e. , @ 544 pm. 9-17.We are a little more rational than the cargo cultists of New Guinea, who wait on the top of hills for the planes to come.
        Are you sure about that? have you ever been outside an arena watching “the fans” waiting for a rock star?

      • Right you are, emsnews, ….. the AAT has never been ‘discredited’ via any factual science evidence ……. or via any common sense thinking, logical reasoning or intelligent deductions.
        Weazelwording and badmouthing rhetoric is all that the “old school” religious believers in/of the Out of Africa via the Hot Savannahs Theory are capable of offering to discredit the AAT.
        The literal fact is, to wit:
        Nothing makes sense in the Evolution of Homo sapiens sapiens other than a close association with an aquatic environment (the shores of rivers, lakes, inland seas or tidal zones) which provided those early hominoids with an easily accessible, abundant supply of high protein foods which did not require the use of tools to gather or to eat.

  3. my ,Belgian Malinois dog is a natural swimmer. She knew how to swim strongly from the first time she was in water where her legs couldn’t touch a surface. I just tossed her as a puppy into the deepend of my pool and she paddled her way to me at the steps.
    I’ve seen videos of Labrador Retrievers taught to successfully, repetitively dive into 8-10 foot deep waters to catch lobsters.
    The aquatic hypothesis is nonsense.
    But my dog overheats quickly running (in 10-15 minutes) here in the Arizona daytime heat, while I can keeping running for hours.
    Humans have a huge brain that when we are just resting is using 1/3 of our metabolic calorie burn/oxidative metabolism. That heat has to be dissipated. The CNS is very intolerant of body temps above 104F (30 deg), as in damage unless it can get cooled.
    We evolved on the African savanna and tree-shrub plains. We can hunt in mid-day while all the other carnivores are trying to stay cool in the shade.
    Sir Attenborough is an addled fool, an IYI (intellectual yet idiot).

    • Well said, of the sort who never met a crackpot theory they didn’t embrace. They used to be communists.
      How does Sir David explain the marvelous human cooling system? What purpose would sweat glands have served during any such alleged aquatic phase? We have the same number of hair follicles per square inch of skin as chimps, but our hairs grow short instead of long, like chimp body hair and human head hair. We’re not really naked, but evolved short body hair to help dissipate heat while running or hunting or gathering in the noon-day sun. Ditto dark skin as sun-block.
      Surely our ancestors did rely on seafood as a source of fat to grow our brains and protein our bodies, but we were never marine mammals. We evolved as savanna mammals. Our brains mainly grew thanks to the invention of stone tools capable of cracking bones that not even hyenas could crush, in order to get out the rich, fatty marrow. The same hand axes could also dig up tubers and grubs.

      • Except it isn’t so ‘crackpot’ at all. As a swimmer who swam ever since I was…a baby and my children swam…living in a very hot climate, we all swam a great deal, a tremendous amount. And it felt totally natural. I had no ‘swimming lessons’ but then my grandmother, in 1898, was famous for swimming on a bet and won. We were all raised to love water and do love water. PS: I copy sea otters for swimming style including lying on my back while playing with something, this really entertains sea otters who wiggle over to see out of curiosity, what I am toying with.

      • Another thing: hair keeps off sun burning the skin. And it keeps sweat next to the body. We sweat too easily in the sun. Ever work in the hot sun? I did for years, doing construction work. What did we do after sweating?
        We went swimming!

      • EMS.
        But humans aren’t good swimmers. Many land mammals are better.
        Our arms are adapted for swinging from trees, like all apes, while our legs are adapted for walking bipedally on land, not for swimming.
        Has it escaped your attention that aquatic mammals have heavy coats of fur, just the opposite of humans? This includes otters, seals, sea lions, walruses, you name it. (Hippos are a special case.) Some mammals which live full time in the sea–cetaceans–do indeed lose their hair, but they compensate with blubber, which we lack. Manatees however retain hair. Nor does our fat streamline our bodies. Quite the opposite.
        Sorry, it is a crackpot theory, driven by ideology rather than the evidence.

      • Well I can probably eat all of the New Zealand green shell mussels you can afford to put in front of me in a hot steamed condition (no extraneous garbage).
        So maybe I am aquatizated.

      • “Sorry, it is a crackpot theory, driven by ideology rather than the evidence.”
        I only know the Aquatic Ape hypothesis from Elaine Morgan’s popular version. It may well be crackpot, but what ideology do you think drives it? As far as I can recall, both Hardy and Morgan appeal to evidence, and make no ideological claims at all.

      • RoHa,
        Morgan was a radical feminist who objected to the discoveries in physical anthropology and paleontology made in Africa from the 1920s to ’70s. She wanted to provide a counter to popular works like Desmond Morris’ 1967 “The Naked Ape”, which promoted the killer ape of the savannas image and reliance on sexual selection.
        There is no science in her book. None of her alleged arguments in favor of an aquatic phase in human evolution hold water, so to speak.

      • Morgan didn’t appeal to evidence, but to baseless conjecture.
        All the evidence is in favor of human evolution on the savanna before spreading into coastal environments.
        This includes the isotopic evidence. From 1999:
        “Current consensus holds that the 3-million-year-old hominidAustralopithecus africanus subsisted on fruits and leaves, much as the modern chimpanzee does. Stable carbon isotope analysis ofA. africanus from Makapansgat Limeworks, South Africa, demonstrates that this early hominid ate not only fruits and leaves but also large quantities of carbon-13–enriched foods such as grasses and sedges or animals that ate these plants, or both. The results suggest that early hominids regularly exploited relatively open environments such as woodlands or grasslands for food. They may also suggest that hominids consumed high-quality animal foods before the development of stone tools and the origin of the genus Homo.”
        From 2003:
        “The stable carbon isotope ratio of fossil tooth enamel carbonate is determined by the photosynthetic systems of plants at the base of the animal’s foodweb. In subtropical Africa, grasses and many sedges have C4photosynthesis and transmit their characteristically enriched 13C/12C ratios (more positive δ13C values) along the foodchain to consumers. We report here a carbon isotope study of ten specimens of Australopithecus africanus from Member 4, Sterkfontein (ca. 2.5 to 2.0 Ma), compared with other fossil mammals from the same deposit. This is the most extensive isotopic study of an early hominin species that has been achieved so far. The results show that this hominin was intensively engaged with the savanna foodweb and that the dietary variation between individuals was more pronounced than for any other early hominin or non-human primate species on record. Suggestions that more than one species have been incuded in this taxon are not supported by the isotopic evidence. We conclude that Australopithecus africanus was highly opportunistic and adaptable in its feeding habits.”
        The evidence for H. habilis was that it ate more animal meat and fat than its probable ancestro Australopithecus africanus and even more so for H. erectus, but not aquatic to any extent, if at all. Isotopes show the difference between land and water animals.
        And again, there is no sign of hominids in Pliocene and early Pleistocene coastal sediments, where they would be expected under her hypothesis and where there should be more than in the upland environments where they’re found.

      • Back when I was in my early twenties one of my attempts to avoid getting a Real Job involved “living off the land,” on the coast of Maine, and I had bad luck catching fish or crabs and ate huge amounts of clams. After a while I felt weaker, and someone told me “Man cannot live on clams alone”. Our body requires a variety of proteins, and an important one is missing from the meat of clams.
        Just a helpful hint, in case someone is looking for an easy way to “go back to nature.”

      • Gabro – September 17, 2016 at 4:11 pm

        How does Sir David explain the marvelous human cooling system? What purpose would sweat glands have served during any such alleged aquatic phase?

        Gabro, first of all, you need to gain a better understanding of what the word “aquatic” as used in the term Aquatic Ape, actually means. And it sure as hell doesn’t mean an “aquatic phase whereby our early pre-human hominids lived mostly in the water like a fish or a seal”.
        Gabro, a duck and a goose are both Aquatic Birds, ….. but neither one lives mostly in the water like a fish or a seal.
        And Gabro, the evolving of your per say, “marvelous human cooling system” ….. had nothing whatsoever to do with “cooling” down the body’s temperature. If one is living (evolving) on the shores of a great salt lake, inland salty sea or salty tidal zone, ….. the winds and/or the sea water is all that one needed to “cool” their body iffen they got too warm or hot.
        Gabro, the original and primary purpose that our early ancestors evolved “sweat glands” over every square inch of epidermis, was NOT for cooling the body, ….. but for ridding the body of excess salt (NACL) that was being ingested as a result of their seafood diet. The fact is, too little salt, …. or too much salt ….. will kill you dead as a doornail.
        And “NO”, Gabo, our early ancestors did not ….. “evolved short body hair to help dissipate heat while running or hunting or gathering in the noon-day sun” ….. simply because their running, hunting or gathering in the noon-day Sun would have caused their over-heated body to secrete out copious amounts of water and salt thru the sweat glands …… and with no way to replenish those two life-sustaining items they would have “passed out” and died right there on the Savannah. Just like Marathon Race runners would “pass out” and die iffen they didn’t ingest their “salt tablets” and few drinks of water during their “race running”.
        So sayith, Gabo,

        Our brains mainly grew thanks to the invention of stone tools capable of cracking bones that not even hyenas could crush, in order to get out the rich, fatty marrow. The same hand axes could also dig up tubers and grubs.

        Gabo, that was a fantastically superb example of …… “circular reasoning”, to wit:
        “DUH”, …. the invention of stone tools provided early pre-humans with a high protein food source. The high protein food source obtained via use of the stone tools was necessary for the growth and development of a larger brain. And the growth and development of a larger brain made it possible for the early pre-humans to invent stone tools to more easily acquire high protein food sources. The invention of stone tools etc., and so on and so forth, and round n’ round it goes.

      • “This includes otters, seals, sea lions, walruses, you name it.”
        I’ve been about five feet away from a big flock of walrus, and sorry but no, they don’t have fur..

      • Tty,
        Walruses do have fur, but it’s sparser than on seals and sea lions. Except for their whiskers, of course.
        You just didn’t get close enough.

      • Samuel,
        As with all proponents of this baseless speculation, your comment was entirely fact- and evidence-free.
        There is zero evidence that sweat glands evolved to excrete salt. There is all the evidence in the world that they co-evolved with short-haired skin as a cooling system:

      • Tty,
        But if you meant to imply that walruses rely mainly on their blubber for retaining heat rather than their fur, you’re right.

      • Samuel,
        Re “aquatic”, the issue is, did the traits that we see in modern humans evolve in response to living on the savanna, where we find fossil hominds, or in the sea, as asserted without evidence by Morgan? She wildly equates our evolution with that not only with that of furry beavers and otters, but with hairless dolphins.
        In science, you need evidence and falsifiable hypothesis, not ideologically driven speculation.

      • Gabro – September 18, 2016 at 1:23 pm

        Re “aquatic”, the issue is, did the traits that we see in modern humans evolve in response to living on the savanna, where we find fossil hominds, or in the sea, as asserted without evidence by Morgan?

        Gabo, when one speaks or writes something that he/she know for a fact that it is a half-truth, totally false or simply untrue, then that makes them a proven liar ….. and a purveyor of falsehoods for the sole purpose of personal gain.
        Elaine Morgan DID NOT claim, assert or imply that our early human ancestors evolved their physical traits by “living in the sea” …… and even dumbarses should know that to be a fact simply because humans have no physical traits that is beneficial to/for their survival if or when living in the sea/ocean.
        And Gabo, cite me a scholarly reference/abstract that acknowledge the fact that pre-human hominoid fossils were found on the African savannahs, far away from the shore of an ancient inland sea. If you can’t provide said sited abstract, …… then I have to assume you posted another falsehood.
        And Gabo also sayith:

        In science, you need evidence and falsifiable hypothesis, not ideologically driven speculation.

        Right you are Gabo, ….. but you should have directed that statement at yourself and the other passionate proponents of the ….. “Out of the Trees and across the Hot African Savannahs Theory of Human Evolution” …… simply because it is totally based on/in ideologically driven speculation without any credible evidence or proofs to justify their imaginary scenarios.
        GIVE IT UP, …… Gabo, …. I have more “answers” to, on or about human evolution than you have “questions” for asking.

    • Humans sweat more than any other animal. It is orders of magnitude higher.
      The closest animal to us in terms of sweating ability is the horse. Basically all the other animals use panting to cool off as the major mechanism.
      We lost our body hair to help this super-sweating ability cool us off even better during the middle of the day-time savanna hunts. Persistence hunting until all the other “panting to cool off” animals suffered heat exhaustion because panting is not as effective as sweating.
      Sweating to cool off also allows more efficient breathing so that one can run, jog, walk farther. Sweating also allows humans to “talk” when it is hot out or we are running, jogging, walking because we are not panting.
      It is a tremendous evolutionary advantage but it comes with a cost of being much more succeptible to cold conditions. Even “room temperature of 22C” is to cold for us without clothes on. Our early ancestor Homo Erectus made it into colder regions by about 1.7 million years ago. So, they had already. Invented some type of clothes by that time.
      We are a sweaty hairless bi-pedal ape with a big brain than can talk and carry and use weapons. Losing our body hair made all those evolutionary advantages another order of magnitude even more advantageous. Super sweating was the key to that.

      • We have no reason to think that Erectus was hairless. Most likely humans lost their body hair as a response to infestation after adopting clothing (hides). Sweating increased afterward as humans ranged further during the heat of the day, aided by their throwing ability and the ability to carry rocks to use as weapons. Regardless, humans needed fresh water and lived where they could get it. In croc and hippo country actually going in the water would have been an idiotic move. The aquatic ape hypothesis is asinine.

      • We have three different kinds of body lice. Lice are specialized to specific species and do not jump between species. In other words, they have evolved along with us as almost all lice have done through history.
        The two types in question here are head lice and pubic lice. They don’t mix together and are rarely found in the other lice’s area. They are very genetically distinct and have very different physical structures.
        Genetic analysis indicates that our head lice shared a common ancestor with chimpanzee lice about 6 million years ago. Pubic lice shared a common ancestor with gorilla lice about 3.3 million years ago (gorilla lice jumped species and evolved to occupy a new niche, human pubic hair about 3.3 million years ago. So by about 3.3 million years ago,our Australopithecine ancestors had already lost most of their body hair.
        The third species, body lice is more of a clothing lice and genetic analysis indicates it split from a common ancestor 70,000 years ago so that is when we started to wear more clothes.
        There are actually two distinct head lice sub-species, very closely related so interbreed often, and analysis indicates the two populations split about 1.18 million years ago. Homo Erectus had two distinct populations that had split and were geographically seperated about 1.18 million years ago and in the last 100,000 years, Homo Sapiens reacquired the other head lice from the other lineage.

      • @ Bill Illis – September 18, 2016 at 4:23 am

        We lost our body hair to help this super-sweating ability cool us off even better during the middle of the day-time savanna hunts. Persistence hunting until all the other “panting to cool off” animals suffered heat exhaustion because panting is not as effective as sweating.

        Bill, me thinks you have been snookered into believing that “circular reasoning” scenario of African savannah evolution.
        Bill, have you ever jumped into a pool of water wearing a heavy fur coat and pants and tried to swim or tread water? TRY IT SOMETIME and then tell us how you made out.
        Bill, have you ever went running in a marathon race, down a hot roadway, sweating profusely, without carrying “invented” containers …….. containing reserve supplies of salt and water?
        And Bill, please tell me, ….. why in the world would our early human ancestors be scavenging for large animal carcasses or chasing 4-legged animals across the hot, dry savannahs when there was not a damn thing they could with the carcass if they found one or with the live animal if they caught one …… because they did not possess the tools to kill and butcher said animals. Nor did they possess the ability to build a fire and cook the butchered meat so that they chew it up to swallow it.
        And if they still possessed sharp “claws” on their appendages and still had a mouthful of incisor teeth ….. then there was no evolutionary advantage to invent butchering tools.
        Bill, buy yourself a whole “fresh” chicken or an 8 pound beef or pork roast ……. and then try to take a “bite” out of any one of the three without first cutting or cooking it.

  4. Attenborough did show a clip on one of his shows of baboons wading upright through floodwater. I certainly do not believe in the full aquatic ape theory, but do think that our ape ancestors, several million years ago way before homo evolved, may well have evolved upright walking in response to periodic flooding in their environment.

    • IMO a more plausible scenario is that walking upright in the spreading grasslands freed our hands to carry our underdeveloped babies while we were losing our fur, onto which they otherwise would have clung. Human infants still have the standard baby ape grasping reflex. Free hands moreover meant we could wield weapons and tools more readily. Walking upright also enabled spotting prey and predators better.
      The savanna environment still featured clumps of trees, but a cooling and drying world favored more grassland. The opening of the Rift Valley also separated the ancestors of chimps and bonobos in their still woody habitat west of the divide from human ancestors east and south of it.
      Both upright walking and big brains probably owe a lot to single mutations. Bipedalism is associated with a gross chromosomal aberration, the fusion of two small standard great ape chromosomes into human #2. Brain growth was facilitated by a mutation knocking out a myosin gene, about 2.4 million years ago, when genus Homo evolved from Australopithecus, which genus had a chimp-sized brain but walked upright.

      • Don’t disagree with you but this is interesting (I read something more detailed but can only fin this DM article)
        The radical theory is partly based on the examination of a 3.7-million-year-old fossilised skeleton of a Australopithecus hominid – an early type of human.
        Nicknamed ‘Little Foot’, the skeleton is the most complete Australopithecus specimen found so far and was discovered in South Africa in the 1990s, but not dated until last year.
        It is the same species as the famous Lucy, but while Lucy was just 1.1m tall, the South African fossil is more similar in size to a modern Western woman.
        A recent study that claims to have solved the mystery of how Lucy died, concluded that she fell out of a tree.

        Humans and Chimps split somewhere between 13 and 4 million years ago with hybridisation along the way. The idea being that chimps devolved a bit to walk on all fours again.
        Then there is Homo Naledi found in a cave near Jo’burg SA which might be around 3 million yo which walked upright.
        Although when I first heard the Aquatic Ape theory it seemed plausible with more of the gaps being filled in there just isn’t time to fit in the required evolution.

      • When Morgan wrote her feminist screed against male-dominated science (never mind Mary Leakey or Jane Goodall), it was already known that there was no way to fit her hypothesis into human evolution.
        All great apes can and do walk upright for short distances, but they are normally quadrupedal while walking on the ground. Chimps, gorillas and orangutans use their hands in different ways when walking.
        The suggestion that the ancestor of chimps and humans might have walked more upright than chimps but less so than people has been around for quite some time. But few have found it convincing. Our last common ancestor probably spent more time in trees than either ape group does now.
        The Naledi finds have yet to be dated. I wish they would get on with it and publish.

      • “The Naledi finds have yet to be dated. I wish they would get on with it and publish.”
        They need to find more small female archaeologists to squeeze through those tiny holes 🙂

      • Gabro has not provided any reasons against wading as a reason for walking upright, simply provided an opinion, which does not actually enlighten much. In his counter hypothesis, tools and weapons are needed. However at this stage of evolution, millions of years before the genus Homo, when apiths were evolving to walk upright, tools and weapons would not be being yielded to any great extent so would not have been an evolutionary factor.
        I think there are primates that currently live in grassland/savanna environments that do NOT walk upright. I am no scholar in the area but I think walking upright is a real evolutionary problem and it probably took something weird to make apes do it.

      • Peterg
        September 17, 2016 at 7:26 pm
        How do you know what weapons australopithecines used? All the great apes living today wield weapons and tools, so why not our first hominid ancestors?
        Australopithecines probably didn’t use stone tools, but there is no reason to imagine that they didn’t use wooden ones. And they certainly carried their babies.
        They did not live in coastal environments. They may well have waded out into lakes or rivers, but that is not what drove bipedalism. Many monkeys and apes are capable of waling upright for short distances, and monkeys, as I noted, took up ground living at the same time as our ancestors did, in response to the spread of grasslands.
        The fact is that all our hominid ancestors are found in savannas, not on coasts.
        There is zero evidence in favor of wading as the force driving bipedalism. All the evidence is for grasslands. Being upright meant we could still wade, but so can four-legged creatures. Her evidence-free myth is laughable.
        Besides which, she attributes other human traits to our alleged aquatic existence besides walking erect.

      • Gabro,
        If apes carry weapons and tools with them when they move, (which I do doubt) then why do they not walk upright also. They do not, because obviously walking upright to carry such tools is not a sufficient evolutionary driving force. If it was a sufficient driving force for the evolution of the apiths, then there must be a reason that it is so, that is not applicable to the other great apes, and you have not provided such a reason, yet it is critical to your position.
        I have not said the ancestors of the apiths lived in coastal environments. I simply said that wading in periodically flooded environments may have been the evolutionary factor that caused them to walk upright.
        I am not sure what sort of evidence you would expect to find for occasional wading. I simply said it MAY have been so. There is no evidence to exclude this. David Attenborough showed a clip of baboons wading in a flooded plain. I do not think these are coastal animals, yet they do wade on occasions.
        I am unsure of the “she” of whom you speak. I have not mentioned “her” in any of my posts. I think you are getting your arguers confused. I do not subscribe to conventional aquatic ape theory.

      • Peterg,
        “She” who is obeyed by the credulous here is Elaine Morgan, proponent of the aquatic ape delusion.
        The whole point is that it’s hard for normally quadrupedal apes to carry weapons, food and babies with them. The babies most often ride, but moms do also hold them. But the other great apes do use weapons and tools, usually when not moving. Having the hands free makes it a lot easier to do so, which was my point. I would have thought that was obvious.
        The obvious reason it applies to our ancestors is because we moved out onto the grasslands to a far greater extent than chimps and gorillas. I also would have thought that was obvious, but apparently not.
        BTW, it’s not “my” position. That human ancestors evolved on the savanna is an observation, not an hypothesis.
        Our ancestors are not found in periodically flooded environments. Lakes and rivers in eastern and southern Africa surely waxed and waned seasonally, but how could walking on two legs for a month of the year or so offer a selective advantage to hominids but not, say, to baboons? Now maybe the key mutation didn’t arise in any monkey lineages, whose chromosomes differ from apes in some ways.
        But how could occasional wading drive evolution? All great apes can walk upright for short periods, and lowland gorillas, chimps, bonobos and orangutans live in swampier conditions than did our ancestors. If the water rose, our ancestors would simply have walked to higher ground or taken to the trees. If it happened at all from flooding, wading would have been brief and sporadic, as the environment of Olduvai Gorge shows.
        That baboons and a great many quadrupedal animals wade is precisely my point. You are arguing from absence of evidence that something might have happened, while paleontologists and physical anthropologists are arguing from presence of evidence as to what did happen. Your hypothesis isn’t testable or falsifiable. Yet scientists know that our ancestors lived on savannas rarely flooded, and in many cases, never.
        Our ancestors evolved during the Pliocene “Great Drying”, not the “Great Flooding”.

      • So sayith Peterg – September 17, 2016 at 7:26 pm

        I am no scholar in the area but I think walking upright is a real evolutionary problem and it probably took something weird to make apes do it.

        Peterg, those who possess knowledge of the natural world and the abilities of common sense thinking, logical reasoning and intelligent deduction can pretty much always “trump” the mimicked claims of the Degreed scholars.
        And Peterg, there is nothing “weird” about walking bipedally ….. if one is walking in knee deep to neck deep water. Ellls bells, one can walk bipedally in waist deep to chin deep water on their “tippi-toes” …… for two (2) yards or two hundred (200) yards, makes no difference.
        When our early human ancestors began “feeding” in the shallow waters of “salty” inland seas …… was when they began evolving to walk bipedally ….. simply because bipedalism afforded a distinct advantage in/for aquatic food gathering, …… as well as the subsequent “mate selection” by the females …… and the genes of the “bipedal food provider” was passed on to his offspring descendants.
        A food gathering advantage is a “driver” of evolutionary changes.

      • Here ya go folks, ….. is a description of the locale in East Africa that Gabro has been desperately trying to convince everyone that it was and still is a hot, dry African savannah of extensive grasslands and very little water where our early human ancestors evolved to be the bipedal walking/running Homo sapiens of today, to wit:

        Archaeology of the Great Rift Valley of East Africa
        Excerpted from
        Around two to three million years ago, Lake Turkana was larger and the area more fertile, making it a center for early hominids. Richard Leakey led numerous anthropological excavations in the area, which yielded many important discoveries of hominin remains. The two-million-year-old Skull 1470 was found in 1972. It was originally thought to be Homo habilis, but some anthropologists have assigned it to a new species, Homo rudolfensis, named after the lake (previously known as Lake Rudolf) . In 1984, the Turkana Boy, a nearly complete skeleton of a Homo erectus boy was discovered. More recently, a 3,500,000-year-old skull was discovered there, named Kenyanthropus platyops, which means “The Flat-Faced Man of Kenya”.

        And it doesn’t seem to bother Gabro, (because his mind is already “made-up”), ….. that Richard Leakey would surely be the 2nd one to disagree with his “junk-science” rhetoric that he has been posting hereon WUWT

      • Orangutans will also walk upright on the ground and in water when the situation calls for it. Doesn’t mean any part of human evolution derived from being aquatic.
        There is no evidence in favor of this thoroughly discredited hypothesis and all the evidence in the world against it.

      • There is plenty of evidence but no bones because…it is rare to find any such bones in watery places due to the dead being eaten, etc. by small sea animals that eat calcium. The bones of mammals we see today happen to be in places where the ground is either frozen like in Russia or there are tar pits like La Brea, etc. But not near the shorelines. Sometimes, great whales leave bones but this is due to vast size, smaller weaker humanoid bones are tremendously rare finds even in Africa, a mere handful. And one cave with more than a small handful.
        All of human evolution is based on a very tiny base of bone fragments and little else.

      • EMS,
        You couldn’t be more wrong.
        There are quite a few fossil bones, plus fossils of the environment in which our ancestors lived. It wasn’t aquatic.
        Moreover, if we lived in shallow water when sea level was higher, then those strata should be exposed and that would have been an ideal preservational environment. There should be even more fossils than we find in the mixed woodland and grassland habitat.
        Clearly, humans evolved to shed heat in this environment, not to retain it in the water, as I’ve already commented.
        We also have the evidence of what else was happening during the evolution of Australopithecus and early Homo.
        Besides which, we have abundant and growing genetic evidence for the course of human evolution. Please see my link on the big brain gene, found in modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans but not the other great apes.
        Every line of evidence leads to the conclusion that we evolved on the land, not in the water, and no valid evidence supports the hypothesis that we went through a maritime phase.

      • Quite a few fossil bones covering a period of 3 million years can be fit, if you jumble them all up, in a box a lot smaller than a travel trunk. It is famously very few especially going back from 200,000 years ago to 3 million years ago where the bones are nearly nothing except a fragment here, a femur there.

      • Gabro and emsnews,

        Gabro: Moreover, if we lived in shallow water when sea level was higher, then those strata should be exposed and that would have been an ideal preservational environment. There should be even more fossils than we find in the mixed woodland and grassland habitat.

        Gabro, you might have a better handle than us on the distribution of current hominid bones. But it would be a mistake to conclude that that distribution would be an unbiased distribution of the hominid environment. I agree with emsnews that IF man spent significant time in the littoral, near-shore environment, fossil preservation would be very unlikely. It is an energy rich environment reducing rock and sea-shells into sand. Bones and skulls wouldn’t stand a chance of preservation.
        The “Survivor Sampling Bias” is real. The situation reminds me of the first story I learned in Operations Research. The short version is that to optimize the armor on WWII bombers, people we mapping the bullet holes on aircraft to learn more about attack patterns and where planes were likely to be hit. Eventually it dawned on them that they only saw the planes that came back! The bullet holes being mapped were less important than the bullet holes in the wreckage of planes that crashed in Europe.
        Likewise, it doesn’t surprise me that we don’t find bones of hominids living on the sea-shore. Stormes, waves, erosion would make quick work of such evidence. Hominid bones living along a lake shore — much more likely than the sea shore — but supportive to either theory.

      • Stephen,
        Shallow water is a better environment for fossil preservation than is open upland country, as I noted.
        Yet we find no fossils in what was littoral during the period in question, which as I noted, would not be exposed.
        We have found our ancestors fossils preserved because they died at an inland lake bed or riverside and were quickly covered by sediment. Had we lived mainly by the shore, this would have happened far more often.
        Morgan’s daft hypothesis has no leg upon which to stand or wade.

      • Gabro, that photo of ‘all these bones’ when put in a pile would fit…in a box the size of a medium to small suitcase. The number of La Brea bones, on the other hand, fills an entire warehouse, row after row of shelves with bones of many animals, lots and lots and lots of them.

      • I heard that “bullet holes-in-the-airplane” story with respect to the U.S. Air Force and Navy campaigns waged over North Vietnam.
        I also heard about this in Aviation Week from the standpoint that the new generations of planes have a smaller number of places where a hit could know them out of the sky (hydraulic pump? critical portion of engine? unarmored portion of cockpit?). Nowadays designers of combat aircraft are well aware of the survivor bullet-hole placement effect, and they work to minimizing this.

      • So sayith Gabro – September 17, 2016 at 6:00 pm

        We have found our ancestors fossils preserved because they died at an inland lake bed or riverside and were quickly covered by sediment. Had we lived mainly by the shore, this would have happened far more often.

        The extent of your ignorance and/or miseducation of the “fossilization processes” is truly amazing.
        “DUH”, very little if any “sediment” is washed-up on lake shores, be it a large lake or a small lake. The flooding that occurs in river channels is the BIG “sediment” mover that washes away (erodes) older river banks and/or creates (deposits) extensions on current river banks. The shore line of tidal zones are subject to the same processes as noted for river banks.
        And Gabor seems to have forgotten, intentionally ignored or is oblivious to the fact that lake levels were lower than present and sea levels were up to 450 feet lower than present …. during the majority of the time that Homo sapiens were evolving bipedalism and other attributes to be drastically different than their ancient hominoid ancestors.
        And the rise in sea levels is surely the reason that the “missing link” fossils have never been found that directly “links” modern humans with any of the known ancient hominoids.

    • Gabro
      Bye Gabro, I find your stuff incredibly uneducational and your personal style a bit condescending and insulting, and extremelly unconvincing. Cheers.

  5. We can always try, but there are bound to be some things which science will not be able to explain.

    Physics Explains…Simple Harmonic Motion
    dur 50 sec

    • Not at all so.
      Simple harmonic motion is a fictional solution to a fictional differential equation:
      d^2x / dt^2 = -kx
      No physical system can obey that differential equation over an unrestricted range of (x) and for an unrestricted time.
      So physics only approximates simple harmonic motion, which actually doesn’t exist.
      It is the mathematics that explains it.

  6. So, “High profile British Climate Advocate David Attenborough, who in 2015 was invited to the Whitehouse by President Obama to advise on climate issues, has come under fire for promoting a discredited “Aquatic Ape” theory.”
    He had to come up with something on such an august invitation, to say what The Audience Himself needed to hear. Very much like Court-Jesters of old, whose job-retention (if not life!) depended on the Boss’s Approval.
    The Alarmist Religion has reached such a pitch that the theatrical performer, mouthing the Alarmist position, will say anything to keep the Promoters happy and the pay-off rolling-in.
    As I was once told by an Engineering Consultant whose Professional & Unbiased Opinion I sought said: “You are paying my bill: what do you want me to say? I can say anything you need.”

    • Read an interesting piece this morning about our U.S. candidates answers to sciency questions from the formerly unbiased source. Hillary answers each question with a lecture that is pretty clearly the prepared message; Trump just answers the question; Jill Stein reduces each question to the propaganda pitch; Gary Johnson has yet to weigh in.
      [Scientific American is unbiased??? .mod]

    • As I was once told by an Engineering Consultant whose Professional & Unbiased Opinion I sought said: “You are paying my bill: what do you want me to say? I can say anything you need.”

      Not quite. Engineers have to protect their licenses and they have to worry about liability.
      When engineers mess up, people die. This engineer is on trial and could spend the rest of his life in jail. He declared a building structurally sound a few weeks before the roof caved in.
      I don’t personally know any engineers who are so desperate that they will stoop to untruths. What they are more likely to do is tell the customer never to darken their doorstep again.

      • Commie Bob: In this case, there were competing, close opinions: a variety of ‘greys’ and none black & white.
        But at no stage did he offer a comparative analysis — he went straight to ascertaining what *I* wanted, and missed the point entirely.

      • “I don’t personally know any engineers who are so desperate that they will stoop to untruths.”
        How about Environmental Engineers, Social Engineers, etc. !

      • AndtG55: I think CBob was referring to actual professional engineers licensed in recognized disciplines- Electrical, Mechanical, Chemical, Structural, etc. Not those who attach the word Engineer to pseudoscientific professions.

      • Ha, ha! I hear you!
        In the Engineering field, Consultants are much more constrained by professional regs. as to objectivity, but my story illustrates the flexibility of interpretation of ‘objectivity’ even within the Rules. Who is to challenge their Prof.Opinion, given the closed-shop of most (all?) professionals?
        And so — the same forces are at work in the Climate Science community. There is *no* incentive to ‘buck the consensus’. There is every incentive to join the Circus and ‘toe the party line’
        Takes a courageous man to challenge the currently perceived ‘Received Wisdom’!
        Remember Galileo? In the end, he was right, the Pontificate wrong.

  7. The two programs were very well put together and the case was made. Was it “catch-all”, I am not sure he ever claimed that Apes abandoned the land and were purely aquatic, I had teh impression that perhaps our ancestors went through a period of spending a lot of time in the water where there is a very good quality food source for an ape that was developing a bigger brain (fish oils etc). The subcutaneous layer of fat and Vernix, an oil that coats babies has been looked for and now been found in seal pups. The spread of H. erectus and sapiens along coast lines, the collection of water lily seeds which requires a lot of deep diving and our ability to go on diving late in old age.
    I do not see why there is so much anger about this program, it was a case well put. Perhaps for balance sake it should have included more contributions from the sceptics? I am interested to know how this theory has been totally discredited, is there evidence that apes did not go through a period of having a close relationship with water?

    • You might be confusing vernix with lanugo, which many mammalian fetuses grow and which persists as the white coat of seal pups.
      In Yahoo groups, I’ve seen Prof. Dan Bowen of Dalhousie University cited, but can find no reference to his ever having written that seal pups form vernix. Maybe he did.

    • In any case, seals have thick coats and blubber, which humans lack. We would make terrible marine mammals. We shed heat rapidly in the water. Also lack webbed hands and feet.

      • Seals live in cold places, humans lived in places that were warm even during Ice Ages and didn’t take up wearing animal skins and moving northwards until the recent Ice Age. The evolution of nakedness while swimming in warm seas and lakes evolved during the much warmer previous Interglacial. People forget, we have had very warm and very cold cycles over and over and over and over again and each warm cycle saw our evolutionary ancestors adapt to warm weather fun stuff like fishing and swimming as well as hunting and running.

      • EMS.
        Even tropical otters and seals have thick fur. Our short-haired bodies rapidly lose heat even in warm water. Our bodies are the temperature of hot water, not warm.
        Again, the human cooling system evolved to shed heat, not to hold it in.
        Of course humans exploited aquatic resources, but so do lots of land animals. Bears were apparently better fishermen than were Neanderthals.
        There is zero evidence in favor of the aquatic hypothesis. It was hatched to counter the “savanna hypothesis”, which Morgan saw as male chauvinist. But our evolution on the savanna isn’t an hypothesis. It’s a fact, ie a scientific observation.

      • “Seals live in cold places, humans lived in places that were warm even during Ice Ages and didn’t take up wearing animal skins and moving northwards until the recent Ice Age.”
        Nonsense. Humans have lived in temperate environments at least for 1.7 million years, and in cold environments for at least 0.5 million years. Or do you consider neanderthals as non-human? Or do you think that e. g. England, Germany, Poland or Siberia were warm during glaciations?

    • You raise a very good point, Sir!, about balance from the Sceptics’ side of the argument
      The Alarmists have so successfully *propagandized* the debate that the very word: “Sceptic” means you wear a label “SKEPTIC!!” (to which everyone points derisively) and you are therefore peremptorily branded an “OUTCAST”, and prob’ly a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal to boot: Alarmists claim “We are ‘US’ aren’t we — s/he not one of us!)
      And so, Sceptics get dismissed, shouted-out & intimidated from voicing their innermost verities.
      Hardly ever have I seen balanced reportage in the media, countering the Alarmist Position, accompanied by spirited criticism from the Sceptics. Skeptics (Sceptics, preferred spelling!) have been deliberately marginalized beyond credibility and don’t get a ‘toe-in-the-door’ in the media-managed, sensationalist Alarmist rhetoric. Which sells newspapers and ever-provides headlines … needless to say. this is our uphill battle — challenging what has become the “Received Wisdom”
      Sceptics largely believe that Gaia has ‘been there before’, accommodating extreme fluctuations on a paleo-historic scale, in terms of relative atmospheric concentrations, temperature, climate change from Ice Ages thro’ major meteoric impacts, etc. Mother Earth is one tough bitch: She has survived far worse than we can throw at it. CO2 levels have cycled to levels far higher than current levels, but did Earth turn into a cauldron? No!! She has a resilience far surpassing an ability to absorb anthropogenic warming … which is an infinitesimal fraction of the variance of insolation over solar cycles, let alone the quantum of insolation itself.
      Which points strongly (Maurice Strong-ly?) to Alarmists managing an angst-prepped propaganda goals for consumption by the lay-voter, with secondary — if any — regard for Intellectual Honesty, Probity, Balance of competing opinion & The Scientific Method of Enquiry. ‘The Goal Justifies the Means’: tendentiousness, no less, in pursuit of voter-manipulation to achieve Alarmist aims … and a hegenomy to suit their elitist ends?.

  8. Beach ape is a better theory, since beaches were the only open walkways before roads where cut through the jungle.
    Food relatively easy to catch and collect there too.

    • Our ancestors evolved in a grassland environment. We came down out of the trees for the same reason that so many families of monkeys did as well.
      Upright walking evolved as the jungle was receding and becoming clumpy. Trails existed everywhere. No need for beaches.
      Apes which stayed in thickly wooded environments, like the lesser apes of SE Asia, continued brachiating, ie swinging acrobatically from tree to tree, as do gibbons, for instance. The great apes evolved to spend more time on the ground, although in the case of orangutans, that isn’t much. The other African great apes, chimps and gorillas (two species of each) are more terrestrial and less arboreal. Humans the most ground-dwelling of all.
      Clearly, humans evolved to lose body heat, not to retain it like thickly-furred marine mammals. Only totally aquatic mammals lose their hair, but develop thick coatings of fat. Humans have not lost our hair. On our bodies, it just grows short to help dissipate heat, along with sweating for evaporative cooling.

  9. I don’t think anyone suggests a “Man from Atlantis” phase and to include it in the conclusion is disingenuous.
    Resorting to “sexual selection” to explain lack of body hair or arrangement of fat, seem to me more the work of consensus than based upon evidence or theory.
    A littoral or tidal flat environment might have been important in man’s development.
    Man has a diving reflex — a reflex active from the moment of birth.
    Man talks because of breath control.
    Man has salt water tears.
    Man has a different feet than the apes.
    The arrangement of his fat resembles more aquatic mammals than the savanna.

    10:01: The question of why we can speak. We can speak. And the gorilla can’t speak. Why? Nothing to do with his teeth or his tongue or his lungs or anything like that — purely has to do with its conscious control of its breath. You can’t even train a gorilla to say “Ah” on request. The only creatures that have got conscious control of their breath are the diving animals and the diving birds. It was an absolute precondition for our being able to speak.
    10:35: And then again, there is the fact that we are streamlined. Trying to imagine a diver diving into water — hardly makes a splash. Try to imagine a gorilla performing the same maneuver, and you can see that, compared with gorilla, we are halfway to being shaped like a fish. I am trying to suggest that, for 40-odd years, this aquatic idea has been miscategorized as lunatic fringe, and it is not lunatic fringe.
    11:05: And the ironic thing about it is that they are not staving off the aquatic theory to protect a theory of their own, which they’ve all agreed on, and they love. There is nothing there. They are staving off the aquatic theory to protect a vacuum. (Laughter) (Applause)
    11:29: How do they react when I say these things? One very common reaction I’ve heard about 20 times is, “But it was investigated. They conducted a serious investigation of this at the beginning, when Hardy put forward his article.” I don’t believe it. For 35 years I’ve been looking for any evidence of any incident of that kind, and I’ve concluded that that’s one of the urban myths. It’s never been done.
    12:00: I ask people sometimes, and they say, “I like the aquatic theory! Everybody likes the aquatic theory. Of course they don’t believe it, but they like it.” Well I say, “Why do you think it’s rubbish?” They say “Well … everybody I talk to says it’s rubbish. And they can’t all be wrong, can they?” The answer to that, loud and clear, is, “Yes! They can all be wrong.” History is strewn with the cases when they’ve all got it wrong. (Applause) And if you’ve got a scientific problem like that, you can’t solve it by holding a head count, and saying, “More of us say yes than say no.”

    There are a lot of parallels with the Natural Changes in Climate vs CAGW debate.

    • Exactly, the last sentence from the Conversation link says “Because at the end of the day science is about evidence, not wishful thinking.”
      The alert should be to question anything that comes from the Conversation.

      • Morgan peddled her cockamamie crackpot hypothesis for 41 years before her death, without ever taking advances in understanding of human evolution during that time into account.
        Even in 1972 it was recognized for what it was, radical feminism pretending to be science.

    • “Resorting to “sexual selection” to explain lack of body hair or arrangement of fat, seem to me more the work of consensus than based upon evidence or theory.”
      We don’t lack body hair. It just grows shorter there. It’s nothing like the case with cetaceans. The arrangement of fat serves purposes besides sexual selection, but again is nothing like the kind of all over fat layers in both sexes which you see in blubbery marine mammals.
      “A littoral or tidal flat environment might have been important in man’s development.”
      Early H. sapiens did indeed exploit this environment, but long after Morgan’s crackpot theory calls for.
      “Man has a diving reflex — a reflex active from the moment of birth.”
      So do most other mammals. Maybe all. It’s called the “mammalian diving reflex.”
      “Man talks because of breath control.”
      We evolved breath control in order to talk better.
      “Man has salt water tears.”
      Lots of body fluids are salty. Including the sweat which we evolved to help cool us off, because we got hot running on the savanna.
      “Man has a different feet than the apes.”
      That’s because we walk on them more and use them to climb in trees less than the other apes. We don’t need to grasp with them.
      “The arrangement of his fat resembles more aquatic mammals than the savanna.”
      It does not resemble aquatic mammals. Our sexual dimorphism in fat has nothing to do with a non-existent aquatic existence and everything to do with sexual selection and the differing needs for lipids between men and women.

  10. I feel sorry when people that I admire believe and defend bonkers theories. I very much admire David Attenborough for his many wonderful documentaries that I used to watch many years ago. Same with Roy Spencer and his creationism and intelligent design beliefs. I guess nobody is perfect.

  11. The previous interglacial was much hotter than this one. That is when our ancestors took to water rather than hide in the jungles like their relatives. And drying off when there is little fur is an advantage when one is in a hot climate!
    Warning: I lived in Death Valley and then Phoenix and then Tucson with no air conditioners. Guess where I spent most of my time during the hot half of the year?

    • I don’t know if you’re serious or not.
      This crackpot theory posits not that humans went through an aquatic phase during the last interglacial, just 100 Ka, but millions of years ago.
      During the Miocene, the planet cooled and grasslands spread across the temperate zones, leading to the evolution for instance of horses from small forest creatures.
      During the Pliocene, even tropical rain forests gave way in some areas, such as East and South Africa, to mixed grassland and copses. Not just our ape ancestors, but those of ground-dwelling monkeys evolved to adapt to this changed environment. Perhaps the best example of this mammalian evolution are the antelopes.

      • Antelopes are a good example of the environmental forces driving evolution on the spreading savannas of the epochs in question. Most of their evolution occurred at the same time and in the same place as human evolution from more arboreal apes.
        They evolved from small forest dwellers, as did horses before them. There is still the duiker, a small woodland antelope of Africa. As grasslands spread, ancestral antelope moved out onto it and adapted to life there.
        Adapted from Wiki, without the references and shortened:
        More species of antelope are native to Africa than to any other continent, almost exclusively in savannas, with 20-35 species co-occurring over much of East Africa. Because savanna habitat in Africa has expanded and contracted five times over the last three million years, and the fossil record indicates this is when most extant species evolved, it is believed that isolation in refugia during contractions was a major driver of this diversification. Other species occur in Asia and used to live in Europe and North America.
        As noted, monkeys and other mammalian groups also adapted to the spreading grasslands.

      • OK: I proposed years ago a survival test. You get to run after antelopes with a rock in your hands (fancier tools came later) and I will imitate the humanoids around say, 500,000 years ago before fires were discovered and I will fish for say, oysters in a warm bay while you run BAREFOOT in the African veld, chasing game. The winner is the one who has something to eat at the end of the day.

      • EMS,
        Our ancestors first scavenged big game carcasses before we took to hunting them. You don’t need to run them down like wolves. You can herd them off cliffs.
        By 500,000 years ago we know that humans were already hunting big game with spears. This practice probably started much earlier.
        You can’t rely on shellfish exclusively if you live in the interior of temperate continents, as humans by well over a million years ago. We have their remains from Georgia at 1.3 Ma, for instance.
        And we controlled fire before we learned how to make it.

    • The previous interglacial…
      +…. With its higher sea levels! I see an ecological niche to fill.
      Got to go back earlier than the last interglacial, however. The key point, however is to think about all the shallow water that existed in the high stands.

      • The sea-level of the `last interglacial` and its timing remain unknown and is a matter of great controversy. Those who claim it is known rely on statistics and cherry picking of the available data.

  12. There were more than a dozen warm cycles and cold cycles. Humans evolved very rapidly compared to say, all the apes and monkeys because…we did things differently during the warm cycles, that is, we went to the watery places to eat stuff like say, oysters.
    Try giving an oyster to a simian of any sort.
    We pried open sea creature shells to eat them. We took up rocks eons ago to crack open the shells. I could go on and on and on about how living in and around warm water turned us into naked apes instead of heavily furred apes like all our living relations in Africa and Eurasia.

    • emsnews, right you are.
      Nothing make biological sense in/of the evolution of Homo sapiens sapiens other than a part-time close association with a “salty” water environment which was their primary food source that provided them an easily accessible, abundant supply of high protein nourishment.
      And the clam and oyster shells, lobster claws, fish bones, spines, etc., provided those hominids with “natural’ formed tools which they quickly learned to use …… and to later on “replicate” out of stone, flint and/or obsidian.

  13. To take this further, a million year ago, running around trying to catch any mammal was either dangers (we have no hunter’s teeth, claws or anything) and we didn’t eat just bananas, we ate something we could catch easily and nothing is easier than catching oysters and other shallow water sea creatures. Since humans figured out fire, eating other things came along but even today, as I have pointed out years ago, the Japanese eat RAW FISH and so do I, I love raw fish. YUMMY. And to suggest a million years ago, a particular group of apes did the same is not outrageous, it is obvious.

    • During the Pleistocene, there have been more than just a dozen such cycles.
      You don’t need to be an aquatic animal to enjoy seafood. A lot of it can be gotten in tide pools. The oldest fishing gear I know of dates to about 70 Ka, unless older has been found. That is, it was used by modern humans.
      Moderns and our closest kin did gather shellfish before then and may have used other means to catch fish than hooks or gorges. But the point is, all this was after we started walking upright on the savanna and breaking open the long bones of big game animals, ie scavenging. We also hunted and gathered, as do chimps.
      There is no human trait that can be attributed convincingly, if at all, to a presumed aquatic phase in our development before H. sapiens.

  14. Do you understand evolution? Let’s take a peek: you go to the tidal pool and get slightly wet and pick up various odds and ends but I go deeper into the water and come back with many more things to eat. And I say, ‘Ook, ook, gurgle goo!’ and point at the water and gesture that it is fun to go in the water and swim.

    • The evolutionary winner is the one who expands the environment to be exploited. And is successful. Item #2: lions notice us near the water. i dive in and leave and you stay on the shore.
      Now, there are dangers in the water like alligators, etc. So we evolved various sight and smell thingies to see if danger is in the water and on the land and choose which is safer. If you are limited to one or the other, you have fewer choices for survival. Able to do BOTH means more survival chances.

      • EMS,
        You are making the case against Morgan’s hypothesis.
        Our ancestors were land-dwellers capable of using aquatic resources. We did not live in the water and adapt to life there, as she imagined.

      • Morgan does not and never has said we lived in the water. Much more like “worked” there. I read her in 1977-78. Man, or rather woman (the title was “The Descent of Woman” after all) was at home on the shore and could hunt and function in the shallow water.
        Our ancestors were land-dwellers capable of using aquatic resources. That is not far from her thesis.

      • Stephen,
        Nope. Her thesis was that humans adapted to life in the water. She tried to tie human evolution to an aquatic existence, as your own list of failed excuses shows.
        Nobody ever thought that humans didn’t start using aquatic resources at some early stage.

      • The aquatic ape hypothesis states that the evolutionary ancestors of modern humans spent a period of time adapting to a semi-aquatic existence. It was first proposed by German pathologist Max Westenhöfer in 1942, then independently by English marine biologist Alister Hardy in 1960. Even then, when much less was known about human evolution than in the late ’60s and ’70s, their arguments failed to attract support.
        Former television documentary writer Elaine Morgan embraced the idea in 1972 as a means to counter the savanna hypothesis, which she disliked on ideological grounds. Scientists however criticized her books as, among other failings, lacking any physical evidence and being contrary to all the evidence that existed and continued to accumulate during the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, ’00s and ’10s.

    • Yes. I understand it. I teach and research it.
      Humans could not have colonized the interior of continents out of Africa if restricted to foraging in tide pools. Although we did do that, too. But aquatic resources as less abundant in continental interiors, where we know people lived during the period supposed in this falsified hypothesis.
      But you don’t have to live in the water, as imagined by Elaine Morgan, in order to collect aquatic resources. I would have thought that that was obvious.
      There is no human trait validly attributable to an aquatic existence.

      • There was a horrible case of survival or the failure of survival that happened in the Sea of Cortez a few years ago; a location that simply crawls with edible food .
        A small (22 foot) fishing boat, as reliable and safe a sea craft as you could wish for, got driven by a storm to take refuge on a large offshore island in the northern section Off Mulege. In the process, the Pangadero used up all of the fuel, rendering his motor useless.
        So three people were stuck on an island that was clearly visible from shore.
        So all they had to do was walk around the shore line of that island to the northern end where there was a safe harbor bay that was virtually never devoid of humans since it was a fisherman’s paradise.
        So they worked their way around the coast, actually in the water so they could drag the boat with them.
        They eventually used up all their water, and the only liquid they had after that was from beer bottles and cans and the like washed up on the shore where they sometimes found them still with a few drops in them.
        I forget how many days they were walking swimming to get to that safe harbor bay and help.
        One of the three eventually died from a variety of problems, but the other two eventually made it and got rescued.
        Having resources all around you doesn’t help if you can’t get hold of them.
        I think I mentioned they were on a fishing trip, so they had fishing gear; some of the finest. That was of no help trying to catch what species might be in the waters reachable from shore.
        Remember you either need bait, or you need artificial lures that work on coastal species.

      • George,
        Fish traps and nets also work, but australopithecines and H. habilis weren’t up to that.
        The modern humans who lived by the sea in South Africa 120 Ka gathered in tide pools at low tide.

      • Gabro – September 17, 2016 at 5:49 pm

        Yes. I understand it. I teach and research it.

        Of course you do, just as I surmised.
        You have a serious “funded-interest” problem …. that your tenure, job status and future earning potential is directly dependent upon.
        You are obligated to “think” what you are told to think, “believe” what you are told to believe, “mimick” what you are told to mimick, “teach” what you are told to teach …. and to bow down to anyone who has job longevity or Degree status that is greater than yours.

  15. Apparently David Attenborough was formerly a climate change skeptic.
    Then, ten years ago(?) some sort of evidence emerged that convinced him that humans were causing alarming climate change.
    I have no idea what that evidence could be. The pause? The debunking of the hockey-stick? Anyway, something happened that caused David to switch sides.
    Doubtlessly the BBC made it clear that they needed him on message:

  16. The problem is that science is not having what it looks like a good idea and running with it. Science is about collecting evidence and then see what sort of hypotheses the evidence supports. The Homo aquaticus idea has zero evidence. We can distinguish:
    – Testable explanation: It can be tested to find some evidence.
    – Hypothesis: supported by some evidence.
    – Theory: repeatedly tested and supported by most evidence in a field.
    The Homo aquaticus idea is not even a testable explanation and therefore does not belong to the realm of science. It belongs with “we were brought to this planet by aliens” or “we were put here by God” type of non-testable explanations.

    • I have a hypothesis on how Homo Sap spread around the world. I put it down to babies. They just won’t shut up. One way to keep them quiet is to drive around in a car all night. 100,000 years ago the only equivalent was to take them on a long walk. The easiest longest walks are along beaches. Before Homo Sap knew it they had gotten to Australia.
      No need for war, pestilence and strife to explain it. Just the incessant screeching of newborns 🙂

      • Yes, do note how humans reached Australia…ahem. Humans have been very attracted to water. Humans figured out how to swim so long ago, we have no idea when. Monkeys that like water splash around in it but humans can HOLD THEIR BREATH and swim underwater. We have no idea how many eons ago that began.
        The sole proof of humans living on plains and hunting with sticks is due to one factor only: the bones didn’t rot away or were eaten by sea and lake creatures. Human bone remains are rare. Human stones used as tools are much more common and…a zillion times easier to find on dry desert lands than elsewhere. There, they lie around easy to find. You can literally trip over them all.
        And yes, humans did live on dry land a lot. But during KEY PERIODS in evolution, they didn’t, they lived near or in as much water as possible. And I do mean ‘lake water’ which they all could drink.

      • I am quite happy with the idea that beaches and waterways were the ancient Homo Sap highways but what would nail it would be if the Homo Saps further away from Africa walked more upright and had less hair than those in Africa. That just isn’t the case.
        Any bit of water in Africa is already home to crocodiles, hippos, snakes and fish with sharp teeth. I doubt early Homo Saps would spend much time flailing about in water at all. Our long legs are pretty useless in water and our fastest swimmers are no match for the speed of above mentioned critters.

    • Morgan’s unsupported assertion is feminist Lysenkoism. She cooked up the scheme in a cracked pot because the alternative, ie the truth, was considered politically incorrect. She and her sisters couldn’t accept that humans evolved as the “killer ape”, high plains drifters akin to Clint Eastwood.
      In fact, we started out more as scavengers, a type of gathering, but also hunted small game, as do chimps.
      I suppose that the scheme could be tested. If a group of Australopithecines or H. habilis were found in an offshore environment and somehow could be shown to have lived there rather than been carried out to sea by currents or rivers, as happened with dinosaurs in the inland sea, it would at least offer a shred of evidence for the hypothesis.
      But all Pliocene and early Pleistocene hominids have been found inland. H. sapiens remains have been found along the shore, but we didn’t live in the water and adapt to life there.

      • Ah! By “ideology”, you mean the dreaded feminism. Asking whether the concentration on the hunter male really accounts for all human characteristics and suggesting that consideration of female evolution may provide a more complete picture may be inspired by feminism, but it does not seem an ideological rather than a scientific question.

      • RoHa,
        The difference between ideology and science is that she looked for an alternative to what science had discovered rather than looking at the evidence and trying to formulate a testable, falsifiable hypothesis.
        It”s not that she was a radical feminist, but that she had no interest in practicing science, which she was incapable of doing anyway. She just wanted to combat what she regarded as male chauvinism, without her ever studying why science reached the conclusions that it did. They were based upon evidence, not male dominance ideology, as she imagined.
        As I said, tell that to Mary Leakey and Jane Goodall.

      • The aquatic ape must have had a hell of a time mastering fire. Not to mention finding suitable materials for tools. How,when and why did we learn to throw or run? It’s ridiculous!

    • Someone else who didn’t listen to the broadcasts, which actually puts forward several testable hypotheses derived from the AAT, which have been tested and passed. (Which doesn’t mean the theory is RIGHT.)

  17. It really pays to listen to the broadcasts. No “Man from Atlantis” is involved. “Beach ape” is indeed the position that Attenborough was presenting. In his own words, “not living in the ocean but making a living from it”. Frankly, the article from “the conversation” sounds like someone whose mind was sufficiently made up that they felt no need to listen to what Attenborough actually said, rather like people raving about climate den*ers.

    • Correct, at this site there are many who don’t like hearing alternative debates, they do the ‘let’s make fun of anyone who has alternative information’ all the time. Fans of the wonderful and patient host of this site, they often go overboard defending scientific positions that are still under debate. That is, DEBATE IS GOOD, not evil.

  18. Discredited by whom and on what grounds? True believers, or disbelievers, tend to claim theories are binary, true or false. That can work in physics but not evolution or human behavior. There’s overwhelming evidence human ancestors evolved to be capable in the water.

    • There is no evidence that we evolved as a result of spending most of our time in the water, as Morgan argued. All the important developments in human evolution occurred as a result of life on the savanna.
      Our big brains later enabled us to exploit marine resources, but that’s not what Morgan’s “hypothesis” maintained in her books “The Descent of Woman”, “The Aquatic Ape”, “The Scars of Evolution”, “The Descent of the Child”, “The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis” and “The Naked Darwinist”. Her goal was to make people think that the science as discovered by real scientists working in the field and lab was all wet.
      She was not a scientist but a feminist polemicist. That would be OK if she had actually adduced some evidence to support her screed, but she never did nor could.

    • I might add that her “hypothesis” was never credited by anyone actually working in relevant fields. It was born discredited.
      Sir David has an undergrad degree in natural science, but never worked as a physical anthropologist or paleontologist.

  19. I’ve admired many of David Attenborough’s documentaries. It’s sad that someone who has championed scientific knowledge in the past, now toes the line of an agenda that throws science out the window, yet does so claiming science is their reason.
    The same could be said of Stephen Hawking.

  20. I loved Attenborough and presented clips from his videos to my students, but I was appalled that he became a mouthpiece for climate alarmism. His video on polar bears, re constructed old BBS videos showing how polar bears naturally hunt and eat walrus each summer, and created beautiful cinematic illusion and bogus portrayal suggesting polar bears only eat walrus due global warming.–believe-only-half-.html

    • When a scientist becomes an activist, essentially it is the end of his career. I have known and admired lot of old scientists that had become emeritus and kept a sharp mind and a sharp scientific method.

      • You are right bazzer, yet I still like the guy. He is entitled to his opinion even if it is the wrong one. He has spent an entire life promoting and defending the natural world while producing documentary masterpieces. To me that is a lot more worth than what most people have done.

  21. People still get the hiccups, incidentally. They still have no control over whether they do it or not. I often hear them hiccupping, involuntarily closing their glottises and inhaling spasmodically, as they lie on the broad white beaches or paddle around the blue lagoons. If anything, people hiccup more now than they did a million years ago. This has less to do with evolution, I think, than with the fact that so many of them gulp down raw fish without chewing them up sufficiently.
    And people still laugh about as much as they ever did, despite their shrunken brains. If a bunch of them are lying around on a beach, and one of them farts, everybody else laughs and laughs, just as people would have done a million years ago.

    ~Kurt Vonnegut, Galapagos

  22. I’ve heard of this idea before, but didn’t realize it is discredited and even mocked. We’ll probably never know for sure.

    • Well, he is NOT a scientist, he’s a Naturalist. He doesn’t have a science degree, he has one in Natural Sciences…which means he’s a Naturalist. The BBC keeps this very quiet.

      • bazzer1959, Attenborough may well be a naturalist, but that cannot be deduced from the fact that he has a degree in natural sciences. As far as I know every Cambridge science graduate is awarded a BA in natural sciences.

  23. One part of human development which is harder to explain is: infants up to 3 years have a direct connection between mouth and lungs so that drowning is hard to happen generally they swallow a lot of water.

      • No, not like adults. Babies have a typical mammalian disposition of the larynx. This makes choking very difficult and that is why they manage to breathe easily while breastfeeding. From about 3 months until 6-8 years the larynx and hyoid descend to a lower position facilitating language but making choking very easy. A reasonable trade off.

  24. Human hairlessness, with limited hair to shield the brain from solar energy and in areas it lots of friction, and our wonderful ability to sweat makes humans excellent savannah hunters. We are designed to run one distances, such that we can choose a zebra and chase it. It will run away and we will follow but, if we keep following it and force it to keep running with little time to stop and cool down, eventually the animal will have to stop and will actually stand still to be killed. That’s our key skill, attrition on a hot day, and keeping cool is the advantage—sweating and little hair was a fantastically powerful strategy.

    • I saw somebody do that in Namibia on the TV. He ran down a deer until it was exhausted but he was carrying a spear which must come later in evolution. Humans really do excel at two things – long distance running (and swimming). I believe that the only mammal that can outrun a human at long distance is a husky. Even a horse can’t do it. We find easy the things that we are evolved for. Long distance running is a good reason to loose a furry coat. Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun? No, humans do it all the time.

  25. “I’m open to the idea that early humans spent a lot of time living on beaches. Gathering shellfish is a very easy way to get a decent high protein meal – kids in my old hometown used to gather more shellfish than we could carry in a matter of minutes.”
    Yes, agree, it’s called “the path of least resistance” plus humans constantly evolved out of their ecological niche due to intelligence.

    • “Gathering shellfish is a very easy way to get a decent high protein meal”
      Easy perhaps but not simple. To do it well requires coming to the coast at the right time of month and to the beach at the right time of day when the state of tide is right. This is probably the reason that there is no evidence at all that humans collected shellfish until about 150-200,000 years ago (in South Africa), and the neanderthals apparently never mastered it (except in the Mediterranean where there are no tides).

  26. There is something very specific that no one has mentioned yet. Predation and water depth. It’s all very well talking about catching food to eat but you have to avoid being eaten first and especially by the big cats. Think about a family today or in the past. You are in the middle of the Savannah and a pride of lions approaches. What can you do? Nothing. You are all lunch for the lions. Try it again when you are on the shore of a lake or the sea. The females grab the children small enough to carry. The males grab a club and you all run into the water and stand in water about 3 or 4 feet deep. The water is shallow enough for the humans to stand but deep enough to make the lions swim. Lions swim head first. When they get close the human males swing their clubs hard. The lions have to retreat or be killed and you survive. This isn’t a small adaptive advantage. It’s a really big one. There are always plenty of clubs around – leg bones.
    Human ancestors could never live in the middle of the Savannah until spears came into use for protection as well as catching prey. Before that ancestors lived on the EDGE of the Savannah. At all times they needed two things – access to fresh water and a safe place to escape predation. Early on it was climbing trees to escape predators. Interestingly the big cat that can climb trees (leopards) are very wary of humans possibly because our ancestors could club them out of a tree if they came after a meal.
    When you move away from trees big enough to climb away from danger, the only remaining safe place is water. Now that doesn’t make the aquatic ape theory right. The idea that all ancestors lived on the Savannah then moved to the beach then moved back again has got to be nonsense but I think the ability to gain safety in shallow water is a major abaptive advantage and enabled our ancestors live away from trees.. The mutations for bipedalism came before any of this, and we were dependant on running between clumps of trees. So the water bit must have come after bipedalism.
    Lastly, food from the sea. Humans now are very good at swimming and have no difficulty swimming out to a reef, diving down and collecting shellfish and Crustacea which is a very high quality protein with added fats. But that is more the Beachcomber theory than the aquatic ape theory. I think it came about in the last 200,000 years or so. The human color is swimming pool blue which is found between the shore and a reef. We like shellfish. That’s all part of our evolved natures.

    • We moved where ever there was the easiest and best chances to survive. As I said, path of least resistance, like water 🙂

      • True but that’s a bit of a cop out. There has to be a mechanism and an order in which things evolved including behaviour. Predation can never be ignored

    • Just like I have been saying, thank you for a good summary of this issue. Closed minds means not thinking out of the box. The discovery of bones lying in the savanna greatly excites everyone, and the rocks used as tools were easier to find, both are very hard to find in quantities where water rises and recedes all the time and you have to dig to find things and not, like Leaky, just wander about, picking up stuff lying open on the ground.
      We know for a fact, humans much preferred living where there is lots of water. Still do today. I speak as a person who grew up in the desert. Our swimming pool was very popular with wildlife, for example, including Big Cats.
      All our vacations were to where there was lots and lots of water. What a relief.

    • “What can you do? Nothing. You are all lunch for the lions.”
      Actually no. A couple of people with sticks and stones could probably hold the lions off unless they were quite desperately hungry. Carnivores are very risk-averse. As someone put it: the prey risks losing his life, the predator only risks losing a meal.

  27. Neoteny – the retention into adulthood of infant or juvenile characteristics, is a much better explanation of human characteristics such as the large ball like skull and large brain, thin skull bones, hairlessness, flat face, large eyes and some aspects of the gential organs. The places where hair remains on humans for instance represent the locations where it first grows during fetal development of other primates.
    Sexual selection by both sexes probably reinforced neoteny in human evolution. To this day, people of both genders show preference for members of the opposite sex who are “cute”, that is, neotenic.
    Aquatic ape is a poor explanation by comparison. Primates are almost the worst swimmers among the mammals. Almost but not quite. The camel takes the wooden spoon for swimming in mammals – due to the concentration of its body fat in its back humps, the creature floats in water with its head a yard under the surface.

      • Leo, he does NOT have a science degree. He has a degree in the Natural Sciences, which makes him a Naturalist, not a Scientist. I don’t think I could have made it any clearer. Go look it up.

      • bazzer1959 September 18, 2016 at 5:38 am
        Leo, he does NOT have a science degree. He has a degree in the Natural Sciences, which makes him a Naturalist, not a Scientist. I don’t think I could have made it any clearer. Go look it up.

        I suggest that you go look it up, a degree from Cambridge in ‘Natural Sciences’ does not mean what you think it does.
        If you look at the Cambridge undergraduate prospectus you’ll see the following:
        “Natural Sciences
        Natural Sciences (NST) is the framework within which most science subjects are taught at Cambridge. If you want to study any of the biological and physical sciences, this is the course for you.”
        If you specialize in Physics or Chemistry there, for example, your batchelor degree will be described as being in Natural Sciences.

  28. Some nice contributions in this thread, despite its scant relevance to the AGW debate.. Would particularly like to commend gabro, alan G, ptolemy2 for some interesting stuff, well put.
    I don’t think we need spend too much time on Elaine Morgan, but Alistair Hardy was one of the grand old men of biology and his opinions deserve respect. I think he had no axe to grind and promoted these ideas in a spirit of genuine enquiry rather than as dogma. Of course, today we have a lot more palaeo information than he did.
    As sceptics we should be prepared to tolerate and indeed welcome non-consensus science, don’t you think? But yes, of course, I do notice the irony of Attenborough’s promotion of the aquatic ape, and his contemptuous dismissal (or censoring – I believe he still writes his own scripts) of anything smacking of even the mildest climate scepticism. He’s been a gem of a nature broadcaster for many years, but he’s past it now.

    • Thanks. I’ve listened to the broadcast and think that surviving predation hardly got a mention but it must have been a significant factor. I have no problem believing that catfish and shellfish were a significant part of the ancestor diet from early on. I’ve seen leopards catching catfish from rivers and drying up pools on TV so the behaviour is not unique to human ancestors. The leopards do it during the same season every year.
      I accept the necessity of fats to support a large brain. But that can come from fish or from animal brains. The problem is that all the adaptations that help us in an aquatic environment also help us on the Savannah. Ok, there was much less Savannah 5 million years ago but it was growing. The question becomes which came first. We know that bipedalism came before the large brain and loss of body hair. Was it bipedalism that made us better at catching fish which then enabled the development of a large brain, or was it catching fish that selected for bipedalism and then a larger brain?
      As for subcutaneous fat, that could simply be to keep warm on land after losing the furry coat. Vernix could simply be because babies are hairless in the womb after their fur coating disappears. Many primates catch fish but have yet to evolve bipedalism or large brains.
      In spite of that, it’s a decent broadcast. At the end DA does say that the argument is about when our interaction with water started – early on, middle or late. We are a semi aquatic species now. When did it start?

  29. rogerthesurf September 17, 2016 at 11:14 pm said, amongst other things:
    “Of course the catch is that the sea level rise is still stuck at 1.7mm per year which it has been since records began.”
    “In spite of this people still seriously warn me that the (EPA) of the US Government seems to think that sea level has risen 10 inches since 1880.!! Mia Culpa!”
    1880 to 2016 = 136 years. Times 1.7 mm per year is 231.2 mm. This is, strangely, 9.102 inches. Well, not quite 10 inches, but within a bull’s roar of being right.
    BTW, Elaine Morgan stated this (paraphrased) When the Miocene became dry and the forests became clumps of trees, humans descended to the plains. When ferocious animals attacked, what happened? Men ran away, women followed, rather slower. Men turned into the bipedal savannah dwelling primate, women turned into the leopard’s dinner. End of savannah ape. AlanG has the right idea.
    The comments by “Gabro” are enough to make one think that Elaine Morgan MUST have been right to have invoked such unscientific language from him. Reminds me of the language thrown at a certain Dr I M who must not be mentioned! Reminds me of the language thrown at most climate sceptics – the establishment does not like your ideas – we have no grounds to support ours, so you must be vilified to shut you up.

    • All evidence of humanoids (pre-homosapiens) living by the ocean during Ice Ages is underwater. NO ONE is excavating for evidence of all this because…it is way underwater. We know that humanoid creatures spread to China, to all the island chains in the Pacific Ocean, all over the place and then they all died off in various catastrophes including the one that happened 70,000 years ago which eliminated what, 80% of all human homo sapiens?
      Yes, catastrophes push evolution, too. And we know precious little about our own evolution. Mastadon bones are gigantic and last much longer than say, tiny mammal bones. Humans are in between in size and since we are prey to the big predators, not much of our bones survive and since humans went to great lengths to HIDE BODIES starting when?
      Half a million years ago? They are much harder to find.

      • Indeed, finding human remains only became much easier when our ancestors began building burial mounds, pyramids, stone circles, etc. These are ridiculously easy to find, especially pyramids. 🙂

      • Yet we do know that H. neanderthalensis didn’t navigate or swim even to islands that he could see with his eyes. They never made it to Corsica or any other island. Neanderthals were open water averse.

      • “All evidence of humanoids (pre-homosapiens) living by the ocean during Ice Ages is underwater.”
        Not quite. There are places where shores have uplifted, and there are interglacial coastlines that are above water. But coastal sites older than the last glaciation are extremely rare. There is one last interglacial site in Normandy and possibly one in the Channel Islands, and that is all.

      • “Perhaps but not the people who reached Australia so very, very, very long ago and who live there today.”
        Forty or fifty thousand years is not very long ago in paleontological terms. However humans made it to Sulawesi and Flores about 500,000 years ago, and there is actually some evidence that humans made it to Corsica/Sardinia at about the same time. These were however probably cases of “sweepstake dispersal”, where people were washed out to sea by hurricanes or tsunamis, and managed to survive long enough on floating debris to drift across. After the 2004 tsunami one man was found alive at sea after nine days.

  30. We all come from the sea in an evolutionary sense.
    The changes needed to be aquatic have to start somewhere.
    We are primates who have fished in the sea for Millenia.
    We could be at the start of Waterworld but I doubt there are enough changes/adaptions evident to say that we went that way and are coming back.
    Nice theory though.

  31. It is strange how commentators here seem to accept the idea that humans evolved solely in the savanna because that is the “consensus” says and therefore it must be true. There are major problems with the savanna hypothesis, as exposed by Elaine Morgan. Here is a link to an interesting article on the subject.
    The Aquatic Ape Theory: challenge to the orthodox theory of human evolution
    Jerry Bergman

  32. Attenborough and Obama? Two fellows well met. Attenborough -BBC lackey. Obama – well intentioned. Where does that leave us? What would really great scientists of the past say?

  33. We can explain the existence of David Attenborough by looking to his adaptive feature.
    He clearly went through a phase when he was Homo Skepticus, and when characteristics of hard headed skepticism were rewarded or at least tolerated in this environmental niche.
    Then, during the following era of the absurdocene, he has gone through a period of accelerated adaptive modification in which he has shed the use of his frontal cortex and become Homo Loboticus.
    Homo Loboticus is primarily driven by the innate drive to maintain security and to acquire possession and status within the tribal group. It worships tokens and taboos, and forms ritualistic cults.
    This is how we can use post-hoc, just-so story telling to explain away some stuff that nobody can deny has already happened.
    Send me some grant money and I’ll expand this into a scientific paper and then maybe, a TV series.

    • Sorry to burst your bubble, but the theories of human evolution changes frequently. Call this ‘evolution of science thinking’ which frankly, happens all over the sciences. For example, we have wild guesses about how the universe was first formed but no real truth that we can bet on being real.
      It is insanely impossible to figure out how and why our universe suddenly appeared out of nothing and what caused this to happen. I once wrote a story about this, in a nutshell, the Creatrix was sitting about, doing her knitting and she dropped a stitch and got pissed off and said, ‘Damn, to hell with this’ and threw her clue (ball of wool) away and it blew up and become the Universe. See? Just as good as any other theory at this point.
      We know very little about very big things! This is why shutting down debate is not smart.

      • No bother. You ain’t bursting my bubble. I don’t have a closed mind relative to this issue.
        I was just having fun mocking David Attenborough’s official acceptance of the CAGW consensus narrative.
        I was a big Desmond Morris fan as a teenager. And I’ve always found it easy to consider adaptation and human characteristics in a versatile and flexible manner ever since.
        But, I usually find that I am in the company of people who want security of polarized thinking and consensus conclusions. I’m not that guy. I’m happy to keep gathering evidence and adding weight to one of several working hypothesis, or on some rare occasion disproving the nul.
        I’m just a hunter gatherer, picking fruit that’s in season, and cockles from the shore. Metaphorically speaking.
        I’m totally comfortable maintaining the aquatic ape along with my collection of other un-disproven, (i.e. active) hypotheses.
        Keep on fighting the good fight. The only reason that I did not say what you have said is because I can’t really be bothered fighting stuff out on the internet.

  34. Indeed, to go insane, just try imagining nothingness forever and forever in all possible directions. There is zero existence. The literally out of nowhere and for no reason, the Big Bang blows up and voila: we have all the stuff that becomes stuff like galaxies, stars and little animals appearing spontaneously. How real is this theory?
    It is real but explains nothing. There was nothing and suddenly there was everything actually sounds insane but this is what happened. The mechanism causing this is utterly obscured from our vision. We can only look at the results of this event, not the event’s cause.

  35. Without proof, theories are purely speculative.
    Although it might make for an interesting SciFi channel flick.
    “Get your flippers off me, you damn fishy ape!”

    • For a school project, I asked my uncle about our family’s predecessors and I smile when I remember his advice.
      “Just make it up; who will have the ability or inclination to question whatever family history you may write”

  36. And how slender are the threads connecting anything about human evolution! This is why there is so much contention about how it happened, why it happened and where it happened.

  37. For me this article runs counter to the philosophy of this site. Articles here in have repeatedly attacked the CONSENSUS of AGW with hard data. To now attack David Attenborough with consensus around unproven (NO physical evidence) theories is hypocritical.

    • I kind of agree on your first point.
      But call me cynical when media personalities and politicians mash up … what good can come of it?

    • Exactly. I think to debate is healthy but to deride the idea based on an article that is itself questionable is not what I expect of this site.

  38. If there was money to be made from this silly idea, Sir David Attenborough would be demanding that those who disagree should be silenced.

  39. Hairlessness, for instance, is only a feature of fully aquatic mammals such as whales and dolphins. Semi-aquatic mammals such as otters and water voles are extremely furry.

    “only”? what about wallowers such as elephants and hippos
    the difference between whales & otters can be explained by the climate when they shifted to water – if the climate was colder – fur was retained
    anti-AAT is not a “settled science” – like AGW – it could go on for a long time
    but – MORE IMPORTANTLY – this entire article is ad hominem – attorborough’s climate arguments should be confronted directly – not via a side-issue

  40. Finger wrinkling points to human adaptation to water that apes lack. It strongly suggests human evolution has adapted to a great deal of time in water.
    None of this precludes other evolutionary developments, such as heat dissipation on land. It simply demonstrates that one cannot rule out some aquatic component to human evolution.
    There is no reason we should have skin wrinkling if we are solely land adapted. It is quite possible the somewhere over the past X million years we spend many, many generations with a very close relationship with water.
    Maybe it is as simple as finger wrinkling allowing us to better hunt fish with our bare hands. The hunter with wrinkled fingers is better able to scoop fish out of the water than the hunter with smooth fingers.

  41. I think part of the disagreement here is based upon the interpretation of “Aquatic”.
    What I remember from “Descent of Woman” in the late ’70s, was that Man lived on land near water (fresh, brackish, and ocean) and found sustenance in that environment much easier than on the savanna.
    I recall Morgan holding disdain for Morris’s “Tarzan” view of the great hunter of the grasslands because shellfish and crustaceans don’t fight back nearly as hard as the Great Cats, jackels, hyena, and antelope (the Gemsbuck and Sable are some of the most dangerous animals in Africa). Land animals would not have given man the chance to experiment with tools. On the other hand you have all day to open a clam, oyster, or crab. You get to learn to make tools. I accept this part of the argument “hook, line, and sinker.”
    If Morgan and others mean “Aquatic” to mean that at some point Man and Woman gave birth in the water, slept in the water, went days without setting foot on land, well then I too would reject that hypothesis.
    Geese, heron, egrets and swans are some birds that we call “aquatic”. They live and breed on land and forage in the water. It is in that sense I take the meaning. Man is no more aquatic than a egret.
    I strongly disagree with Gabro on the distribution of bones and the likelihood of preservation and discovery of fossils in the near-shore environment. I am unaware of hominid bone finds from the Nile Delta. What is more likely?
    A) That Hominids did not inhabit the Nile Delta.
    B) That hominid bones have been buried, preserved, and remain hidden under dozens-hundreds of feet of delta sediment.
    C) That hominid bones didn’t get preserved in that environment from wave-stream erosion and meandering rivers.
    I believe it is a combination of B and C with A absurdly unlikely. Just look at the difficulty archeologist have had in locating Pi-Ramesses, perhaps one of the greatest cities of the Egyptian pharos built out of stone. It is hard to find bones if it is a difficult place to look for them under modern cities and towns and working farmland.
    Let us also consider the fresh-water, lake shore and river bank environment. Fresh water lakes are a dangerous place to hang around. Hippos and crocks live in the water and every carnivore for miles comes to drink. It might be a decent place to set up ambush for game, but only after you have developed tools and skills.
    No, the brackish estuaries, barrier island lagoons, and tidal flats would be safer places to forage than the savanna. The lack of fossil evidence doesn’t concern me in the slightest because as someone with geologic experience I can appreciate how difficult it is to find your car keys in the surf. If hominid bones would survive the coastal environment, then we should be tripping over fossil whale bone everywhere we look.
    The hominid bones we have found are from the “planes that came back”. The more important bones in the story of Man are from environments where the what few bones would have survived are much harder to find.

    • You’re not disagreeing with me but with the facts. Ask any paleontologist which is a better depositional environment for the formation and preservation of fossils, a mixed woodland-grassland savanna or a shallow coastal zone. On the land, dead animals are almost always scavenged and their bones scattered and decayed before being covered up. It’s common to find them from these habitats in river and lake beds where the remains can be silted over, or under volcanic ash falls or sandstorms. In shallow seas however, preservation is not only more likely, but often much better, due to fine-grained sediments.
      Australopiths did not inhabit the Nile Delta. It didn’t exist at their time. When the Med was a series of salt lakes after the closure of Gibraltar Strait, the paleo-Nile cut a deep canyon in order to reach the sea at such a low level. The Rhone shows the same sort of incision. Then, when the Strait opened up again and the Atlantic rushed in, the lower Nile was a bay all the way up to Aswan. It was during this period (the Pliocene Epoch) that Australophithecus evolved. Then sediment slowly filled in the deep Nile canyon, finally reaching the present delta.
      Much of what we know about ape evolution in the Oligocene, which preceded the Miocene and Pliocene Epochs, comes from the Fayum Depression, which was then a swampy forest. Unlike dry forest, the ancient apes that died there had a good chance of being covered up and preserved before being eaten.
      In short, there is zero evidence in favor of an aquatic phase in human evolution. Surely our ancestors increasingly made use of aquatic resources as our brains got bigger, but the driving force behind our evolution was dealing with the drying conditions in the habitats in which we know our ancestors lived.
      We were not originally big game hunters, but scavengers. Like chimps, our ancestors did hunt smaller game. But the Acheulean handax, which implement remained unchanged for about a million years, was a multi-purpose tool, one of the main uses of which was to crack open the long bones of Pleistocene megafauna. Evidence of this use abounds. OTOH, there is, again, not a single shred of evidence in favor of our having evolved as a result of a semi-aquatic existence. All the evidence in the world is against this baseless speculation, which can’t be dignified with the term “hypothesis”, since it’s totally anti-scientific.

      • There is indeed a paleo-Nile Delta, or at least a migrating stratagraphic sequence of deltas. As you point out, it is many (hundreds) of miles from its current location and in places under thousands of feet of sediment. Where it and the things buried in it have not been eroded, they are inaccessible.
        Our current list of bone finding locations is not an unbiased random sampling of hominid settlements. There is a strong survivor’s bias and an accessibility bias. The implications of that sampling bias should be remembered in the analysis.

      • Stephen,
        There is no bias. Every relevant region of Africa has been thoroughly prospected for Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene fauna. The fact that there are no hominids in the coastal strata is not an artifact. It is a taphonomic fact.
        Sorry, but Morgan’s Homo aquaticus is a feminist myth, akin to the creationists’ myths. It is entirely without any actual physical support.
        Please feel free to take it on blind faith like a young earth creationist, but there is no scientific basis for the conjecture whatsoever. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

      • Well now, Gabro, there you have me. If there are deep water whale bone fossils from the Pliocene and Pleistocene, we wouldn’t be unlikely to find them. Those strata do not outcrop anywhere today above water so those hypothetical fossils are unavailable.
        Since we have found no such fossils, can we conclude whales did not die and leave their skeletons in deep water sediments in the past 5 million years?

    • “If hominid bones would survive the coastal environment, then we should be tripping over fossil whale bone everywhere we look.”
      Of course considering that we all know how very common whale cadavers are on beaches.
      Almost all whales die at sea, and it is in deep-water sediments that most whale-bones are found.

      • I was pointing out that we know that some whales die on the beach. But the fossil whale bones we know about don’t come from the beach. They are best preserved in deep water sediments. Whale bones on the beach are destroyed by wave action and are not preserved.

      • If whale bones on beaches are destroyed by wave action, how come that e. g. mollusc shells and bird bones that are vastly more fragile are preserved?
        And incidentally bowhead whales, which are unusual in that they fairly frequently become hemmed in by ice and die in very shallow water are rather common in arctic beach deposits.

      • Stephen,
        Fossil whalebones from the relevant time frames are not from deep ocean sediments.
        We’re interested in Pliocene and early Pleistocene layers. Before commenting upon human evolution, it would be wise to study it.

      • Well now, Gabro, there you have me. If there are deep water whale bone fossils from the Pliocene and Pleistocene, we wouldn’t be unlikely to find them. Those strata do not outcrop anywhere today above water so those hypothetical fossils are unavailable.
        Since we have found no such fossils, can we conclude whales did not die and leave their skeletons in deep water sediments in the past 5 million years?

  42. Skeptics won the AGW science debate long ago, but many of them still don’t understand why the truth isn’t catching on with the public. “Dangerous AGW” is ridiculous to those educated in the hard sciences; we know that CO2 rising by just one part in ten thousand isn’t enough to cause any measurable global warming, just like it hasn’t caused any of their other scary alarmist predictions.
    But David Attenborough is a wonderful promoter of the “climate change” scare. With the BBC’s excellent video production experts and facilities, he can easily make up look like down, and he can make war look like peace, make ignorance look like strength, and… he can make natural climate variability look “vewy dangewuss”.
    The mouth-breathing public that swallows his sciencey programs without question is a big part of his audience. He’s so sincere that he must be telling the truth.
    David Attenborough is Walter Cronkite 2.0 — avuncular, friendly, concerned, helpful, sincere, etc. How can the public not believe what he’s telling them? But… Attenborough has an agenda. He’s promoting a narrative that is unsupported by the real world.
    Those in the climate alarmist movement understood early on how important public relations is when selling a Big Lie to the public. OTOH, scientific skeptics just assumed that it would be sufficient to be reasonable and logical, and then letting the scientific evidence demolish the alarmists’ “carbon” bogosity.
    Nyet!! Emotions rule the public, not facts or evidence. Or rather, emotions trump all facts and evidence.
    The sooner that skeptics find some friendly, likeable, authoritative spokespeople, the sooner we will make progress (and a busty young blonde might not be a bad idea either—so long as she’s got “Dr.” in front of her name). Drs. Lindzen and Curry are good examples. But we need more.
    In the mean time, the BBC and Attenborough have the high ground WRT alarmist propaganda. Skeptics have some catching up to do.
    Facts and evidence are fine, but they aren’t sufficient when dealing with the public.

    • Fully agreed, dbstealey, that Attenborough has had for some time now both feet firmly planted in promotion of this fraudulent cAGW hoax. I suspect he’s long harboured a personal ‘legacy’ issue wherein the forces that enable(d) his programme making (ie. the broadcast media and the behind-the-scenes ‘science’ from which he picks) have so purposefully gamed the message that he’s deliberately chosen not to sully a peerless reputation. A latter day shameless indoctrinator.

  43. I enjoyed the schadenfreude but the article was basically an Ad Hominem. It is possible for people to be wrong about one thing and right about another. The discussion about the aquatic ape theory was really cool though.

    • Just as with man-made global warming, it’s vague for starters.
      When and where exactly did this supposed phase of human evolution occur?
      Please present all your evidence for this having happened there and then. Please state the results which could show this hypothesis false.
      You can’t. Therefore, it’s not science but ideology.

    • he discussion about the aquatic ape theory was really cool though.

      i agree – i’ve been watching AAT for some time now – it fascinates me how ANGRY dissenters are – almost virulently angry – later i would run into the AGW debate – and found a familiar atmosphere –
      science is actually accompanied by a lot of emotion

  44. There are many highly qualified scientists working in relevant disciplines who are skeptical of the consensus on man-made climate change.
    If you seriously believe that the aquatic ape conjecture has a shred of scientific credibility, please show me a single physical anthropologist or paleontologist working today who supports Elaine Morgan’s ideologically driven, scientifically baseless assertion. Just one.
    I’m waiting.

  45. Highly unlikely. We know that humans came out of Africa, so it follows that today’s black people of African descent are probably most closely related to our ancestors. These people are not good swimmers. If you don’t believe me, just look at the recent Olympic Games, or any earlier ones. You will not see a black contestant on any of the winners rostrums in any swimming event, yet they are outstanding in running events. People who can’t swim well but can run like hell did not descend from aquatic creatures. This was first pointed out to me by an alcoholic former lodger. Wisdom from the mouth of a drunk. Cheers.

    • today’s black people … are not good swimmers. If you don’t believe me, just look at the recent Olympic Games, or any earlier ones. You will not see a black contestant on any of the winners rostrums in any swimming event,

      to ‘ad absurdum’ your argument – there were no black gymnasts among leaders until a decade or so ago – and now look what’s happened – by your logic – that paucity was due to the fact that blacks (as closer to hominoid ancestors) weren’t good – at – gymnastics/acrobatics – really?!!
      or maybe is was due to the social barriers – gymnastics and swimming requiring more monetary commitment than running
      i hope you’re going to be comfortable with this piece of news out of Rio –
      this doesn’t deal with your “wisdom from a drunk” logic – eg – decendants from aquatics apes can NEVER become fast sprinters – black people are closer and should show more similarities to hominid ancestors (this logic is widely regarded as racist) – etc

  46. Most hunter gatherers and Agrarian communities can’t swim. Humans, like cats, don’t usually like the water.
    Our ears are also poorly adapted to water, they frequently get infected with water clogging and don’t deal well with depth.
    Also , water dwelling mammals tend to be bulkier, such as hippos, hominids got progressively taller and more lithe, including HOmo sapien.

  47. David Attenborough has been on television since we first got one back in the 1950’s. Any attempt to discredit him is futile.

  48. Good grief: so much certainty, so little evidence. Conjecture piled upon conjecture piled upon conjecture: that’s all this is, on both sides.
    And that being so, try to show each other some respect: neither side knows “the truth.”

  49. Actually, having read the detailed “Aquatic Ape” theory books, I find the theory “explains a lot”. Moreover, I find discussions of it, misrepresent it — to make it sound “stupid”.
    The AA Nay Sayers sound a lot like Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming due to CO2 proponents who ignore facts and logic to protect their long held beliefs.
    The Science Isn’t Settled.

  50. Lots of times I have dreamed that I could breathe underwater. Maybe that’s some kind of race memory.
    Or maybe I just watched Man from Atlantis too much when I was a kid.

    • I’ve dreamed I can levitate. Combine that with the fact that our ancestors lived in the trees, and it becomes obvious they could fly. 🙂

  51. Sorry, but please give me arguments why humans are NOT aquatic apes. The ones mentioned above are rather poor.
    – Our eyes are adapted to under water sight. Just look at the Komen people in Thayland.
    – We are excellent swimmers, by birth.
    – We walk upright because of wading in the shallow waters. You don’t need to be a speed swimmer to do that.
    – Do you think water is aways chilly? Apart from your mitochondrial dysfunction; Just look at what mister Wim Hofman is doing. He teaches people how to swim in ice water, without gasping, in a matter of minutes. Just relax and take a dive.
    – Why not consider that the ability of holding your breath lead to the ability to speak?
    Please give me arguments, so I can refute them. While you’re busy, please provide an alternative theory as well. Thanks!

  52. I’d never heard of Attenborough’s program before. But I recall reading in one of Ivan Sanderson’s books about cryptozoology that he had personally seen giant bones in the Aleutian Islands during WWII that were ape-like, but far too massive, in his opinion, to have been viable except with the support of water. He speculated that the owners had lived in shallow shore waters.

  53. My earliest memories of dreams were ones where I could fly, through some simple artifice. Either a paper grocery bag, or a mercury ion thruster powered snow ski (yep, seriously), I could fly at will, anywhere, any time. I’ve only actually piloted an airplane once, and only for about 30 seconds. It scared me.
    I shared these thoughts with an acquaintance, Eric Lindbergh – grandson of Charles Lindbergh, and a pilot in his own right. He, too, could recall dreams in his childhood of flying. We chewed on this train of thougt for some time, but could come up with no plausible explanation for the phenomenon. It never occurred to us that we might be descendants of birds.

  54. Humans also have nostrils that point downwards. Great for sinking into the water.
    Unless you are Gabro, who’s nostrils are a pair of forward facing holes like all the apes have.

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