Aquatic Ape Human Ancestor Theory

Aquatic Ape Theory - What is it?

A Brief Summary of AAT - key arguments

A Brief History and Key Proponents of AAT

When / Where / How?

Ape to Human Evolution Timeline

Alternative theories of human evolution

Wikipedia and the scientific community

... Anatomical Evidence
... Bipedalism
... Birth and babies
... Brain
... Breath control
... Descended larynx
... Diet
... Diseases
... Fat
... Fingers, toes and feet
... Furlessness
... Hair and baldness
... Human ailments
... Kidneys
... Language & Song
... Menopause
... Nose
... Olfactory sense
... Pachyostosis
... Paranasal Sinuses
... Platycephaly
... Reverse osmosis
... Sexual features
... Sleep (USWS)
... Surfer's ear
... Sweating
... Tears
... Underwater vision
... Viruses
... Waterside environments

. Homo Ancestors
... Trachillos bipedal hominids
... Homo erectus
... Homo neanderthalensis
... Sea Gypsies/ the Moken
... Homo sapiens - water afinity
... Coastal Migration
... Pan and Gorilla ancestry
... Semi-Aquatic Animals

. Testable Hypotheses
. Fossil evidence
. Genetic evidence
. Paleoecological evidence
. Retroviral marker in apes
. Acheulean handaxes

A call to scientists...

Recent News and Updates

Books and publications


Videos links



Books, papers, publications on Aquatic Ape Theory

The Descent of Woman, Elaine Morgan

The Descent of Woman

by Elaine Morgan, Souvenir Press, 1972

The Descent of Woman is a pioneering work, the first to argue for the equal role of women in human evolution. On its first publication in 1972 it sparked an international debate and became a rallying-point for feminism, changing the terminology of anthropologists forever. Starting with her demolition of the Biblical myth that woman was an afterthought to the creation of man, Elaine Morgan rewrites human history and evolution.

This lively, informative book sets out to solve the riddle of our origins; its answer is controversial. Elaine Morgan has made The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis a plausible alternative to conventional theories of evolution and The Descent of Woman first set out an understanding of who humans are and where they came from.

Elaine Morgan was best known as a writer for television until the publication of The Descent of Woman in 1972, which became an international bestseller.


The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis by Elaine Morgan

The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis

by Elaine Morgan, Souvenir Press, 1999

Elaine Morgan gives a revolutionary hypothesis that explains our anatomic anomalies in The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis - why we walk on two legs, why we are covered in fat, why we can control our rate of breathing? The answers point to one conclusion: millions of years ago our ancestors were trapped in a semi-aquatic environment. In presenting her case, Elaine Morgan forces scientists to question accepted theories of human evolution.

The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis is a revised version of The Aquatic Ape (published by Souvenir Press in 1982). In the years since, The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis has gone on to win widespread support among scientists.

It is a measure of Elaine Morgan's enduring importance, provocative thought and international reputation that in January 2006, the first Chinese translation of The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis became a Number 1 bestseller in Taiwan. [Goodreads]

The Scars of Evolution by Elaine Morgan

The Scars of Evolution

by Elaine Morgan, Oxford University Press, 1990

When Elaine Morgan wrote The Descent of Woman in 1972, it sent shock waves around the world, and is now widely regarded as a key work on human evolution, and essential to any discussion of women's place in society. Now, with The Scars of Evolution, Morgan offers a pioneering look just where it was our earliest ancestors came from, and the legacy--not always advantageous--that they left us. As she sets out to solve one of the enduring riddles of our origins--to discover the evolutionary path that separated us from the rest of the animals--Morgan shows that many of the theories currently accepted by scientists cannot explain our unique features: they leave too many questions unanswered.

Millions of years ago, something happened to our ape ancestors that did not happen to the forebears of gorillas and chimpanzees, something that made them walk on two legs, lose their fur, sweat, develop larger brains, and learn to speak. While scientists have visited many a dig and studied many a fossil for clues, Elaine Morgan argues that all of the facts about our mysterious origins are right in front of us--in the form of fundamental flaws in the human design. Our propensity to suffer from lower back pain, obesity, varicose veins, acne, even infant death syndrome, is essentially the result of a cataclysmic event in our distant past.

Scientists have long observed that our spines were not made for upright walking. Yet natural selection--the basic tenet of evolutionary theory--dictates that enduring changes to a species occur because of the need to adapt to changes in the environment. While thousands of working hours are lost each year to "bad backs," at some point long ago it must have been an advantage to walk on two legs. The most common theory is that we became bipedal while hunting on the African savannah, needing our arms free for weapons, using an upright stance to see enemies from afar. But as Morgan points out, animals need more speed on the savannah, both for pursuit and flight, than two legs can offer. Her explanation: bipedalism emerged from life in an aquatic environment due to the flooding of the African rift valley millennia ago. The apes that suddenly found themselves stranded in swamp land (a swamp that remained for thousands of years) had to walk upright to keep from drowning. The human tendency toward obesity was once not an unsightly health problem, but rather a lifesaving form of insulation, one present in all aquatic mammals. And as Morgan carefully considers all of our other uniquely human traits--our relative hairlessness, our ability to control our breathing, our inability to maintain proper salt levels--a compelling case emerges for our human origins in a watery environment.

Lively, controversial, and presented with a brilliant logic, The Scars of Evolution will change the way you think about the world--and our place in it. [Goodreads]

The Descent of the Child by Elaine Morgan

The Descent of the Child

by Elaine Morgan, 1995, Oxford University Press

Why are chimp babies skinny, while human babies are so fat they float? As humans developed greater intelligence--and increased cranial capacity--how did babies and mothers adapt to increased fetal brain size? And how did humans develop our unique intelligence. Elaine Morgan, an internationally bestselling science writer known for her iconoclastic take on evolutionary theory, addresses these questions and more in The Descent of the Child, an intriguing and controversial look at human evolution from the point of view of infant development.

Beginning with the assertion that much of our thinking about human evolution exercises an unconscious bias--that we envision an archetypal human being as an adult--Morgan sets out to explain why human infants evolved in the way they did. We are often told how, in the course of a million years, adults acquired increased dexterity, adaptability, intelligence, and powers of communication. We are seldom reminded that over the same period infants became more helpless, more vulnerable, and more inert. Morgan focuses on the relationship between these two facts as she develops a stunning theory of the origins of human intelligence she argues that our capacity for intelligence is a byproduct of evolving babyhood. Uniquely among primates, homo sapiens are born with considerable struggle, emerge wholly helpless, and continue to be dependent for a long time afterwards--only their eyes, faces, and vocal cords work. They don't know that they're not always going to be like that, Morgan posits, but, bent on survival, they try to manipulate their parents or other caregivers to do things that the babies can't do for themselves. (For instance, they'll cry for food, and only human babies continue crying after being picked up, sending a strong message not to be so remiss next time.) These early struggles, according to Morgan, provide our formative intellectual activity. It is in infancy that we really learn to think and to question.

In her much debated earlier works, Morgan has championed the controversial Aquatic Ape Theory of human evolution against the widely accepted Savannah Theory. The Descent of the Child takes her further into the fray with a provocative new argument adding new evidence to support AAT even as she explores such urgent topics as conception and infertility, the maturation of the fetus, child rearing and parental roles, overpopulation, and a woman's place in society. This fascinating book should be read by parents (both new and soon to be) as well as anyone interested in child development or human evolution. [Goodreads

The Naked Darwinist by Elaine Morgan

The Naked Darwinist - Questions about Human Evolution

by Elaine Morgan, Eildon Press, 2008

[pdf] [goodreads]

Was Man More Aquatic in the Past? M. Vaneechoutte et al

Was Man More Aquatic in the Past? Fifty Years After Alistair Hardy. Waterside Hypothoses of Human Evolution

Edited by Mario Vaneechoutte, Algis Kuliukas, Marc Verhaegen
2011 Bentham Science Publishers

The book starts from the observation that humans are very different from the other primates. Why are we naked? Why do we speak? Why do we walk upright? Fifty years ago, in 1960, marine biologist Sir Alister Hardy tried to answer this when he announced his so-called aquatic hypothesis: human ancestors did not live in dry savannahs as traditional anthropology assumes, but have adapted to live at the edge between land and water, gathering both terrestrial and aquatic foods.

This eBook is an up-to-date collection of the views of the most important protagonists of this long-neglected theory of human evolution at the 50th anniversary of its announcement in 1960. It brings together the views of leading scientists such as anthrolopogy professor Phillip Tobias, marine biologist Richard Ellis, waterbirth gynaecologist Michel Odent, nutritional biologist Michael Crawford and science writer Elaine Morgan. [goodreads]

The Passionate Ape by Craig Hagstrom

The Passionate Ape: Bad Sex, Strong Love and Human Evolution

by Craig Hagstrom (2013)

This book presents a new model for human sexual evolution. Starting from the Aquatic Ape concept, this book explores the social and psychological changes of an ape that evolves to live largely or wholly in a marine environment. The loss of territorial borders and the destruction of dominance displays tends to weaken the society. At the same time, physical changes cause all aquatics to convert to frontal sex. In the human ancestor, female orgasms were caused by penile contact with the G-spot. When our ancestors converted to frontal sex, the vagina reoriented for frontal sex and G-spot contact (and reliable coital orgasms) were lost. Women evolved love, first in a mild form and then with increasing power when we moved back to land. Love is the hyper-development of personal preference (which is common in primates) to such an extent that it can be treated as if it were a new emotion. Humans have no instinctive mechanisms to deal with or evoke this emotion, and the last three million years or so are the story of how we evolved to cope with this. One of the coping responses leads to the sexual targeting of immature girls. This in turn led to the slowed maturation of humans, far beyond the slowed maturation that was already common in our near relatives the Great Apes.


The Improbable Primate, Clive Finlayson

The Improbable Primate: How Water Shaped Human Evolution

by Clive Finlayson, 2014, Oxford University Press

In The Improbable Primate, Clive Finlayson takes an ecological approach to our evolution, considering the origins of modern humans within the context of a drying climate and changing landscapes. Finlayson argues that environmental change, particularly availability of water, played a critical role in shaping the direction of human evolution, contributing to our spread and success. He asserts that our ancestors carved a niche for themselves by leaving the forest and forcing their way into a long-established community of carnivores in a tropical savannah as climate changes opened up the landscape. They took their chance at high noon, when most other predators were asleep. Adapting to this new lifestyle by shedding their hair and developing an active sweating system to keep cool, being close to fresh water was vital. As the climate dried, our ancestors, already bipedal, became taller and slimmer, more adept at travelling farther in search of water. The challenges of seeking water in a drying landscape moulded the minds and bodies of early humans, and directed their migrations and eventual settlements.

In this fresh and provocative view of a seven-million-year evolutionary journey, Finlayson demonstrates the radical implications for the interpretation of fossils and technologies and shows that understanding humans within an ecological context provides insights into the emergence and spread of Homo sapiens worldwide. [Goodreads]

The Birth of Homo, the Marine Chimpanzee by Michel Odent

The Birth of Homo, the Marine Chimpanzee

by Michel Odent, 2017, Pinter & Martin

Drawing on a diversity of fast-developing disciplines including genetics, physiology and pathology as well as the history of canoeing and studies of the fluctuation of sea levels, revolutionary thinker and birth pioneer Michel Odent examines the case for viewing the genus Homo as a ‘marine chimpanzee’ – particularly adapted to coastal areas. By exploring the practical implications of this vision of our species, including in the period surrounding birth, the author raises questions about the very survival of humanity. At a time in history when human domination of Nature is more profound than ever before, are we on the cusp of a ‘symbiotic revolution’?

With his characteristic ability to look at the ‘big picture’ and ask questions that challenge conventional thinking, Michel Odent once again manages to persuade readers to view themselves, and their species, in a new light.


The Waterside Ape - An Alternative Account of Human Evolution by Peter Rhys-Evans

The Waterside Ape: An Alternative Account of Human Evolution

Hardcover – 27 Mar 2019

by Peter H. Rhys Evans (Author)

This book presents the latest evidence on the controversial ‘Waterside Ape’ theory of human evolution, what used to be known as the ‘Aquatic Ape’ theory. The traditional ‘Savannah Ape’ theory that early hominid apes evolved on the grass plains of East Africa 6- 7 million years ago from our quadruped ape ancestors by coming down from the trees on to the savannah and stood upright in order to see further, has been accepted by archaeologists and anthropologists since before the time of Darwin, based on geological and fossil evidence. Recent scientific evidence largely discredits this hypothesis, but mainstream teaching and public understanding is still based on traditional lines. [Goodreads]

Human Fossil Record and Classification by Alan VanArsdale

Human Fossil Record and Classification

by Alan VanArsdale, due July 2020, Bookbaby

Emphasis on the most important and current research and published finds of human and related primate fossils. With history of the multiregional perspective, in which human adaptation and ancestry is not centered in any one place, with free gene flow between populations acted upon by natural selection. With a synthesis of multiregionalism with the recent out of Africa hypothesis and human genetics including the MGD method. Revisions already made and further revisions needed in the recent out of Africa hypothesis are discussed, including revisions made which were anticipated by neglected professional authors such as C. Loring Brace and Jacques Ruffie. Principles of inter and intra specific gene flow and HGT as related to human and great ape adaptations discussed. Advances in other fields such as mammalogy, biology, paleontology, MGD genetics and medicine which have not been generally integrated into Western paleoanthropology are discussed. Internet search engines and interactive social media were used in addition to library research to seek out more relevant references. [Goodreads]
In Den Beginne was Het Water

In Den Beginne Was Het Water

by Marc Verhaegen, 1997. Available only in Dutch.

Why is man naked? Why do we have a subcutaneous fat layer? Why do we sweat much more than other mammals? How is it that man has varicose veins and back problems? Why does the woman usually lie on her back during sex, an uncomfortable and even dangerous couple pose that is unique in nature? Why did our brains grow so big and invent the language? Marc Verhaegen has one explanation for this: man is not descended from the ape, but from the "Aquatic Ape". Verhaegen largely agrees with the current theory of evolution, except for one point: the savanna theory. He states that the forerunner of man broke away from the forest apes, went to the African savanna and started walking upright there to better hunt game. Marc Verhaegen convincingly demonstrates that man's ancestors did not live in a warm and dry environment, but in a warm and humid environment. The Aquatic Ape Theory may seem revolutionary, it was already proclaimed in the 1920s by doctors like G.L. Sera and Max Westenhöfer. In 1960 Sir Alister Hardy developed his Aquatic Ape Theory. Desmond Morris paid attention to it in The Naked Ape. And the Welsh author Elaine Morgan defends the same statement in The Scars of Evolution. In that book she makes explicit use of the insights of Marc Verhaegen. The general public knows the Aquatic Ape theory of mothers who want to give birth underwater. With this book Marc Verhaegen finally makes his insights accessible to interested laymen. What does the press say? "Marc Verhaegen's thoughts are original, resourceful and consciousness-provoking; they are based in all respects on accurate reasoning and extensive research and make a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate on human origin. "- Elaine Morgan. [Link]

Elaine Morgan, 100 Years Towards Origins, by Algis Kuliukas

Elaine Morgan ~ 100 Years Towards Origins 

by Algis Kuliukas  (Author)  Format: Kindle Edition. Available from Amazon.

"This is my celebration of Elaine's very full and impressive life. It recounts the relatively modest origins of a Welsh heroine in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales. It’ll rejoice in how she won her place at Oxford University, knocking ‘em cold with her wit. Whilst pointing out that her degree was accomplished during the Second World War, I’ll note how she got involved in politics along with several famous peers, such as Tony Crossland and Roy Jenkins.
Just as the war was coming to a close, she met her life partner Morien, and Elaine Floyd became Elaine Morgan. We’ll trace their journey up to Burnley where they started a family and then back down to the English-Welsh Borders before settling into a cosy refuge near Aberdare to raise three boys.
In the days when it was very rare for a woman to “have it all”, I’ll pinpoint how Elaine found a way to begin a writing career without sacrificing any of her motherly dedication. I’ll record how she spotted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get into the brand-new niche of television playwriting. I’ll chart the rise of Elaine’s career as one of the most successful post-war writers of TV dramas and documentaries and list out the sheer breadth and depth of her work.
Elaine’s background gave her a bit of a feisty edge and when she read Desmond Morris’ best-seller “The Naked Ape” and its male-centred view of human evolution, it made her livid. We’ll enjoy the timing of her own best seller, “Descent of Woman”, almost exactly 100 years after Darwin’s “Descent of Man” and how it railed against the “tarzanists”.
I’ll share the tale of how Elaine’s flirtation with anthropology almost ended there, and how it might have done if it had not been for the letter writing of an American policeman, Chuck Milliken. Thanks to him, Elaine did write that second book, and more. I’ll summarise their arguments and the disappointing response to them from the experts of palaeoanthropology..."

Westenhöfer, Max (1942). Der Eigenweg des Menschen: dargestellt auf Grund von vergleichend morphologischen Untersuchungen über die Artbildung und Menschwerdung. Berlin: Die Medizinische Welt. "The unique path of man, depicted on the basis of comparative morphological studies on the formation of species and the origin of humanity"

Papers by Marc Verhaegen (et al)

  • Verhaegen, Marc (1985). The Aquatic Ape Theory: Evidence and a Possible Scenario. Medical Hypotheses Vol:16 Pages:17-32
  • Verhaegen, Marc (1988). Aquatic Ape Theory, Speech Origins: a hypothesis. Speculations in Science and Technology Vol:11 Pages:165-171
  • Verhaegen, Marc (1990). African Ape ancestry. Human Evolution Vol:5: Pages: 295-297
  • Verhaegen, Marc (1991). Aquatic Features in Fossil Hominids?. In: Roede, Machteld; Wind, Jan; Patrick, John; Reynolds, Vernon (eds.), (1991). Aquatic Ape: Fact of Fiction: Proceedings from the Valkenburg Conference. Souvenir Press (London)
  • Verhaegen, Marc (1991). Human Regulation of Body Temperature and Water Balance. In: Roede, Machteld; Wind, Jan; Patrick, John; Reynolds, Vernon (eds.), (1991). Aquatic Ape: Fact of Fiction: Proceedings from the Valkenburg Conference. Souvenir Press (London)
  • Verhaegen, Marc (1992). Did Robust Australopithecines Partly Feed on Hard Parts of Graminae? Human Evolution Vol:7 Pages:63-64.
  • Verhaegen, Marc (1993). Aquatic versus Savannah: Comparative and Paleo-environmental Evidence. Nutrition and Health Vol:9 Pages:165-191
  • Verhaegen, Marc (1994). Australopithecines: Ancestors of the African Apes? Human Evolution Vol:9 Pages:121-139
  • Verhaegen, Marc (1995). Aquatic Ape Theory, Speech Origins, and Brain Differences with Apes and Monkeys. Medical Hypotheses Vol:44 Pages:409-413
  • Verhaegen, Marc (1996). Morphological Distance Between Australopithecine, Human and Ape Skulls. Human Evolution Vol:11 Pages:35-41.
  • Bender, Renato; Verhaegen, Marc; Oser, Nicole (1997). Acquisition of human bipedal gait from the viewpoint of the aquatic ape theory. Anthropologischer Anzeiger Vol:55(1) Pages:1-14
  • Verhaegen, Marc; Munro, Stephen (2000). The Origin of Phonetic Abilities: A Study of the Comparative Data With Reference to the Aquatic Theory. ? Vol: Pages:1-12
  • Verhaegen, Marc, Puech, Pierre-François (2000). Hominid lifestyle and diet reconsidered: paleo-environmental and comparative data. Human Evolution Vol:15 Pages:151-162
  • Verhaegen, Marc; Puech, Pierre-François; Munro, Stephen (2002). Aquarboreal Ancestors? Trends in Ecology and Evolution Vol:17 Pages: 212-217
  • Marc Verhaegen, Stephen Munro 2004 Possible preadaptations to speech – a preliminary comparative approach Human Evolution 19:53-70
  • Marc Verhaegen, Stephen Munro 2007 p.1-4 in SI Muñoz ed. Ecology Research Progress, Nova NY New directions in palaeoanthropology
  • Marc Verhaegen, Stephen Munro, Mario Vaneechoutte, Renato Bender, Nicole Oser 2007 p.155-186 in SI Muñoz ed. Ecology Research Progress, Nova NY The original econiche of the genus Homo: open plain or waterside?
  • Marc Verhaegen 2010 New Scientist 2782:69 Lastword 16.10.10 Oi, big nose!
  • Marc Verhaegen, Stephen Munro  2011 HOMO – J compar hum Biol 62:237-247 Pachyosteosclerosis suggests archaic Homo frequently collected sessile littoral foods
  • Stephen Munro, Marc Verhaegen 2011 p.82-105 in Mario Vaneechoutte, Algis Kuliukas, Marc Verhaegen eds 2011 ebook Bentham Sci Publ
    Was Man More Aquatic in the Past? Fifty Years after Alister Hardy: Waterside Hypotheses of Human Evolution p.82-105 Pachyosteosclerosis in archaic Homo: heavy skulls for diving, heavy legs for wading?
  • Marc Verhaegen, Stephen Munro, Pierre-François Puech, Mario Vaneechoutte  2011 p.67-81 in Mario Vaneechoutte, Algis Kuliukas, Marc Verhaegen eds 2011 ebook Bentham Sci Publ Was Man More Aquatic in the Past? Fifty Years after Alister Hardy: Waterside Hypotheses of Human Evolution Early Hominoids: orthograde aquarboreals in flooded forests?
  • Mario Vaneechoutte, Stephen Munro, Marc Verhaegen  2011 p.181-9 in Mario Vaneechoutte, Algis Kuliukas, Marc Verhaegen eds 2011 ebook Bentham Sci Publ Was Man More Aquatic in the Past? Fifty Years after Alister Hardy: Waterside Hypotheses of Human Evolution. Seafood, diving, song and speech
  • Marc Verhaegen  2013 Human Evolution 28:237-266 The aquatic ape evolves: common misconceptions and unproven assumptions about the so-called Aquatic Ape Hypothesis
  • Erika Schagatay, Peter Rhys-Evans, Kathlyn Stewart, Marc Verhaegen, Mario Vaneechoutte, Naama Goren-Inbar, Stephen Munro, Algis Kuliukas, Stephen Cunnane, Tom Brenna, Michael Crawford 2016  google "Schagatay Brenna reply" A reply to Alice Roberts and Mark Maslin: Our ancestors may indeed have evolved at the shoreline – and here is why...

Algis Kuliukas
April 2006

Website: F. Mansfield, 2015

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