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



Sexual adaptations in Homo sapiens

Compared to our closest biological relatives, chimps and bonobos, human beings have several differences in their sexual features. Women have larger, fattier breasts, a deeper, angled vagina, and larger external labia. Women, along with killer whales and pilot whales, are among the only known species to go through a cessation of their menstrual-ovulation cycle in later middle-age. Men (and to a certain extent, bonobos) have comparatively larger penises than other apes, a fully extended foreskin and no bone (baculum) in their penis. Why did these changes occur?

Woman breastfeeding in a birthing pool.

Aquatic ancestors may have breastfed their babies on the surface or even under water.


The females of all mammals have milk glands and in the majority of terrestrial quadrupedal mammals they are located under the body, on the belly or chest. In K-selected animals which have fewer offspring they can be found towards the hind end of the body, such as in cows or goats; and in animals which tend towards large litters, they run the length of the belly, as in pigs and dogs. Monkeys and apes have developed paired nipples at the top end of the chest, near the pectoral muscles. This makes sense as apes and monkeys are more likely to sit upright when they feed, so an infant clinging to its mothers fur would find this the most comfortable and safest place to nurse.

During development the nipples on the human embryo move further downward and this continues for a while even after birth so that in mature human females the nipples are slightly lower than in other apes. Unlike other primates, however, humans have no fur for babies to cling on to and, as human newborns are relatively helpless during the first few months (at least on land), mothers have to hold their babies in their arms when they nurse. Having nipples that reach the babies' mouths when they sit, walk or wade in water would have provided an evolutionary advantage to a semi-aquatic hominid ancestor.

To make this even easier, human women have varying degrees of fat surrounding the mammary gland, extending and lowering the nipple even further and making it more adaptable in being able to reach the infant's mouth. As fat is 90% denser than water (fat tissue is ~95 %) human breasts tend to float, leaving the nipple at/above the surface if a woman is standing or sitting in chest high water. This would also have been advantageous for a semi-aquatic ancestor, who would have spent much of her time in shallow waters with her baby. Breasts full of milk stand erect, floating above the water surface in back-floating women. Some primitive populations today are described as having back-floating-lactating women and floating babies (while the mother dives for shells).

Above: A Russian mother practices Igor Charkovsky’s esoteric method of breastfeeding her baby underwater. Please note that a special technique is used to insure that the baby does not breathe water. Also, the baby is dunked underwater for only one second at a time. Do not experiment with this technique without proper instruction from a water-training expert.
Female reproductive organs

The vagina

Even before birth, the female human fetus is being structurally modified to adapt it to walking or wading on two legs instead of four. Several changes take place, including to the pelvis and to the spine, in order to support the weight of the internal organs. In most mammals, the vagina runs horizontally straight from the uterus and exits the body just under the tail, but in humans, it makes a right-angled turn towards the front of the body. This not only probably makes childbirth more difficult, it means that the male genital organ also had to adapt in order to achieve successful copulation.

A comparable design is also found in marine mammals and it is hypothesised that it protects the reproductive tract from infection during mating in water. It also exists in at least one other terrestrial animal, the elephant; the female's vagina is around 3m from start to finish - the longest of any land mammal. Even with his legendary penis length, also the largest of any terrestrial animal, a bull elephant never enters the female's vagina, as its opening is located 1.3m into her body. [1]

The labia

in all female primates the sex organs are covered by two external genital folds at an early stage of fetal development but these disappear in a later stage of pregnancy leaving the clitoris exposed in all but humans. In the human fetus, however, these folds increase so that by the time the baby is born the clitoris is fully concealed by the labia. It has been suggeted that these flaps of skin have the primary role of protecting the interior of the body from microbes and infection which can more readily be a problem in water. [2]

The hymen

The hymen is a membrane-like tissue which is considered part of the external genitalia, whereas the internal vaginal orifice is partly covered by the labia majora. Only two non-human primate species are known to have hymens: lemurs and chimpanzees (Cold & McGrath 1999). Although it has yet to be determined, given the change to an upright posture and a reduction into the size of the birth canal, it is not likely the function of the human hymen is necessarily the same as the one in lemurs and chimpanzees (Hobday et al. 1997). Currently, it is unclear when this trait may have evolved, as it is unlikely to be a trait shared with chimpanzees given the morphological changes from chimpanzees to humans. In this context, this suggests that the hymen evolved three times. The hymen in Hobday’s exaptation theory serves as a homoplasy, and it is postulated this evolutionary adaptation may have benefitted humans for more hygienic reasons, which may not have been necessary in primate ancestors.

Although there is as yet no concensus on what the purpose of the hymen might be in humans, Elaine Morgan proposed it might be an adaptation to an aquatic environment where hominids were more at risk to microbes rarely encountered on land and that the hymen evolved as an independent adaptation to avoid vaginal infections caused by microbes within the aquatic environment (Morgan 1972). As hominids walked upright more frequently within the aquatic habitat, the likelihood of contracting vaginal infections increased, she claims. These vaginal infections were considered to cause infertility and as a result, reduce reproductive success (Hobday et al. 1997). Therefore, females that possessed these tissues to ward off infections were more likely to be reproductively successful and pass on the adaptation to offspring.[3]

The penis

During prenatal development of the male genitalia a fully extendable foreskin is formed. In humans it completely covers the penis and is non-retractable in 96% of boys when they are born. By the time they have reached five years old this has been reduced to only 5%. As with the labia and hymen in females, it has been hypothesised that the purpose of a non-retractable foreskin in male children could be to protect the urethra from infection by microbes at an early age, before they are able to properly clean themselves. In most mammal species, the mother will groom her offspring's genitals and anal areas herself, but in humans, perhaps because of a reduced olfactory sense and a tendency to rely on water for hygiene, we have lost this urge.

Apes and monkeys all have a bone in their penis whereas human males do not, allowing the human penis to be far more flexible than in other apes. But the most obvious difference between the other primates and human males is the size of the penis. In chimps it is usually no bigger than the size of a human finger:

Man versus bonobo penis

"Today, the average erect gorilla penis is 3cm (1.25 inches) long, the average chimp or bonobo penis comes in at around 8cm and the average human penis stands at around 13cm. Most primates, including chimpanzees, have a penis bone and achieve erections through muscle contraction. The human penis has evolved the unusual system of vasocongestion to achieve erection, making the erect organ far more flexible than that of other primate species." [4]

One theory about why the human male penis is larger than that of the other apes, is that it was an epigamic marker, connected to male hierarchy and degrees of polygamy, used either to attract females or intimidate other males. However, it would be more reasonable to assume that as the female vagina became deeper and more angled, so too would the penis need to adapt to achieve successful copulation.

Whale penis

Many aquatic mammals have long penises. The largest in the animal kingdom belongs to the blue whale which has an average length of of 8 feet (2.4 m) to 10 feet (3.0 m) and a diameter of 12 inches (300 mm) to 14 inches (360 mm). [5] Whale penises are also prehensile, meaning they can control them at will, directing them towards a female's vagina, presumably no mean feat for such large animals to accomplish in water. Whales, like people, often mate face to face, as do bonobos. Furthermore, the frontal orientation of the bonobo vulva and clitoris strongly suggest that the female genitalia are adapted for this position. [6] Bonobos also spend a significant amount of time wading in water.

Website: F. Mansfield, 2015

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