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



Key Proponents and supporters of AAT

Alistar Hardy \ Max Westenhöfer \ Elaine Morgan \ Phillip Tobias \ Marc Verhaegen \ Pierre-François Puech\ Stephen Cunnane \ Michael Crawford \ Stephen Munro \ Algis Kuliukas \ Erika Schagatay \ Derek Ellis \ Marcel F. Williams \ Michael Odent \ David Attenborough

Anaximander (6th century B.C.)

Prior to 546 B.C. in ancient Greece, the Milesian philosopher Anaximander proposed that mankind had sprung from an aquatic species of animal. He thought that the extended infancy of humans could not have originally permitted survival as a land-based species. This idea, based on elemental forces of mutation as opposed to evolution, does not appear to have survived Anaximander's death. [1]

Sir Alister Clavering Hardy, FRS (10 February 1896 – 22 May 1985)

Alistair HardyAlister Hardy was a marine biologist and zoologist who, while studying zooplancton on The Discovery expedition to the Antarctic in 1926, became familiar with the anatomy of marine mammals. A few years later in 1930, Hardy read Wood Jones' "Man's Place amongst the Mammals", which asked why humans have a layer of fat directly under the skin unlike other terrestrial mammals. Hardy realised there was a direct similarity with the blubber in marine mammals which made him begin to wonder whether man had been more aquatic in the past.

At the time, Hardy was Professor of Zoology at the University of Hull (1928-1942) and, knowing that his career as a scientist would be over, and that he would lose any chances of becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society if he published his hypothesis, he decided to keep the theory to himself. He achieved FRS status in 1940. It was around this time that the same idea of a more aquatic past was independently arrived at by the German scientist Max Westenhőffer, who was the first to publish such an account in 1942 "Der eigenweg des menschen" (The Path Travelled by Man Alone) although Hardy probably never knew this.

After a brief spell in Aberdeen, Hardy became Linacre Professor of Zoology in Oxford between 1945 and 1961, becoming knighted in 1957. It was only when he was approaching retirement that Hardy decided to go public with his theory. So, one day in 1960, he stunned the world of paleoanthropology by giving a speech at the British Sub-Aqua club in Brighton and talking about his hypothesis. However, there was such an outcry in the popular press that Hardy was compelled to write up his theory in a more scientific journal: New Scientist in an article entitled: "Was Man More Aquatic in the Past?"

The scientific response was at best underwhelming and at worst openly scornful. Hardy claimed he always intended to fully write up and publish his theory but in the end he never did. It wasn't until Desmond Morris mentioned Hardy's idea in his book The Naked Ape in 1967 that a young feminist writer from Wales, named Elaine Morgan, picked up on it and decided to explore the idea still further.

By the time he died in 1985, Hardy had still not received any recognition for his ingenious theory and even today the world of paleoanthropology remains unable to give any proper scientific argument as to why the theory is flawed.

Guiseppe L. Sera

Sera, an Italian biologist, was probably the first to suggest a possible aquatic phase in primate evolution. On the face of it, Sera’s contribution has very little relevance to the later ideas of Alister Hardy, since it was not concerned with humans, or even with apes although it should be remembered that at the time many scientists believed that our ancestors were primitive. It dealt with the evolutionary history of the Platyrrhini (broad-nosed or New World monkeys). It foreshadowed Hardy only inasmuch as it was based on anatomical comparisons between some primate species and some aquatic ones. Features such as the detailed structure of the larynx, nose, ear, female external genitals and the kidneys led Sera to consider the possibility that the platyrrhines might once have occupied an aquatic habitat. Other parallels with Hardy were the willingness to put forward an idea contrary to contemporary thinking, and the modest tones in which they were offered. Sera expressed the hope that “such ideas which at first sound so improbable should at least serve as a stimulus to further research.”

Max Westenhöfer (February 9, 1871 – September 25, 1957)

Max WestenhoferMax Westenhöfer was a German pathologist and biologist who was the first person to publish his view that water had played a role in the evolution of man. His 1942 book "Der Eigenweg des Menschen" (translated as "The Path Travelled by Man Alone" or "The Unique Road to Man") put forward ideas suggesting that adaptation to water has played a significant part in the history of human development.

However, Westenhöfer differed from other proponents of AAH in that he disputed Charles Darwin's theory on the kinship between modern man and the great apes, believing that a number of traits in modern humans derived from a fully aquatic existence in the open seas, and had only in recent times returned to land. In 1942, he stated: "The postulation of an aquatic mode of life during an early stage of human evolution is a tenable hypothesis, for which further inquiry may produce additional supporting evidence." Westenhöfer's aquatic thesis suffered from a number of inconsistencies and contradictions, and consequently he abandoned the concept in his writings on human evolution around the end of the Second World War.

However, he did bring to light various anatomical differences between apes and humans /marine mammals which Hardy had not considered, such as differences in ears, kidneys and spleen. [2]

Elaine Morgan (7 November 1920 – 12 July 2013)

Elaine MorganElaine Morgan first came upon Hardy's aquatic idea while reading Desmond Morris' 'The Naked Ape' in 1967. At the time she had been reading a lot about 'man the hunter' and other savannah hypothesis related views of how humans had evolved in such a way to benefit the male of the species while failing to consider at any time the females or the young. For instance, she thought that if humans lost their fur in order to cool down while chasing game on the savannah, that did not explain why women should also lose their fur as, according to the savannah hypothesis, they would be looking after the children. In his book, Morris had made a reference to Alister Hardy's hypothesis and Morgan was intrigued. She contacted Hardy and asked if she had his permission to expound on the idea and Hardy agreed because he hoped a more popular book on the subject might make his own more scientific publication more palatable. Unfortunately, Hardy never published his book.

Morgan's first book: "The Descent of Woman" (1972) was a best-seller, but mainly because of its advanced feminist views in the field of paleoanthopology, highlighting as it did that at no time can a species evolve based on the needs of only one gender. However, among scientists the book was criticised for not being scientific enough. Other than that it was essentially ignored.

Morgan had not intended to write further books on the subject, but one of her readers, an American policeman named Chuck Milliken, kept writing to her to ask when her next book was coming out. Chuck had also written to several senior paleoanthropologists in American universities about Morgan's book asking them what they thought about it. When Morgan read their replies, she began to realise that they could not actually provide any credible answer about what was wrong with the idea. This prompted Morgan to write a second book: "The Aquatic Ape Theory" (1985) which was prefaced by Hardy himself. This book was far more scholarly and scientific, with references and appendises, and she hoped this time, that the scientific community might begin to take her seriously. Once again, however, the book was greeted with cynicism, disdain and derision by the academic establishment.

The fact that science could still not offer any other better explanation as to why humans walked on two legs, had lost their fur, used speech and a host of other factors that the aquatic ape hypothesis had answers for, persuaded Morgan that she should not give up. She went on to publish even more books: " The Scars of Evolution" (1990), "The Descent of the Child" (1994), "The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis" (1997) and "The Naked Darwinist" (2008) and continued to promote the Aquatic Ape Theory until the end of her life.

If Hardy should be credited for coming up with the hypothesis in the first place, it is Elaine Morgan who, without doubt, deserves the credit for bringing the idea to a global audience and making it one of the most controversial and talked about theories of human evolution that exists today.

Further reading:

2013 “Dunking the Tarzanists: Elaine Morgan and the Aquatic Ape Theory,” in Outsider Scientists: Routes to Innovation in Biology, ed. Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 223-247. [.pdf]

Phillip Tobias, FRS (14 October 1925 – 7 June 2012)

"All the former savannah supporters (including myself) must now swallow our earlier words in the light of the new results from the early hominid deposits... Of course, if savannah is eliminated as a primary cause, or selective advantage of bipedalism, then we are back to square one."

Phillip TobiasPhillip Tobias was a South African palaeoanthropologist and Professor Emeritus at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He was best known for his work at South Africa's hominid fossil sites, and wais one of South Africa's most honoured and decorated scientists. He was nominated three times for a Nobel Prize, received a dozen honorary doctorates and was awarded South Africa's Order for Meritorious Service. Tobias published over 600 journal articles and authored or co-authored 33 books and edited or co-edited eight others. He received honorary degrees from seventeen universities and other academic institutions in South Africa, the United States of America, Canada and Europe. Among the medals, awards and prizes he has received is the Charles R. Darwin Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (1997).

Tobias is best known for his research on hominid fossils and human evolution, having studied and described hominid fossils from Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia. His best known work was on the hominids of East Africa, particularly those of the Olduvai Gorge. Collaborating with Louis Leakey, Tobias identified, described and named the new species Homo habilis. He is closely linked with the archaeological excavation at the Sterkfontein caves, which have yielded the largest single sample of Australopithecus africanus as well as the first known example of Homo habilis from Southern Africa. [3]

For much of his career, Tobias was an adherent of the Savannah hypothesis and the belief that our ancestors may have started walking/running on two legs in order to see further across the open plains. He said:

"In 1985, ... I published a chapter called "The conquest of the savannah and the attaining of erect bipedalism" in which I expressed the old idea: "The living apes of Africa are to be found exclusively in the wet forest of the middle reaches of the continent. It is likely that ancestral apes, too, were forest-dwelling creatures...The spread of lighter woodland and savannah and the retreat of the margins of the primaeval forests could well have created conditions in which the tendency to uprightness and bipedalism was favoured. The ability to run across the high grass cover of the savannah, perhaps from one woodland-girt stream to another, might have held advantages for those apes which could 'walk tall'. Uprightness gave its possessors a chance to see over the tall grass and to watch out for predatory enemies like the lions and sabre-toothed big cats. Seemingly it was under just such a set of conditions that the Hominidae made their appearance upon the face of the earth."

That statement may well be the quintessence of the SH - and I believe it was my last statement in support of it. By 1995, when I gave the Daryll Forde Memorial Lecture at University College, London, I stated of the SH, "We were all profoundly and unutterably wrong!" " [4]

In 1998, Tobias asked for a renewed interest in the importance of water in human evolution, referring to the work of Elaine Morgan and Marc Verhaegen. Tobias did not espouse the aquatic ape hypothesis as a primary cause for for instance our bipedalism, since there are other theories, but to his knowledge no other hypothesis could explain those several physiological and biochemical characteristics which seem to ally us to aquatic mammals.

Since then, the savannah hypothesis has broadly been abandoned even by mainstream paleontologists. Besides the fact that all the fossil evidence indicates that the small-brained, bipedal hominids of four to 2.5 million years ago lived in a woodland or forest niche, not savannah, the direct impetus for his statement was the finding of 'Little Foot', an australopithecine of which the foot shows clear climbing adaptations. Tobias pointed out that proximity to water was the most important factor in the location of an evolving group like the early hominids. Since humans become quickly dehydrated when denied water in warm, tropical or subtropical climates, our ancestors must have lived in the vicinity of springs, rivers, lakes and freshwater estuaries. Wherever the early members of the human family were evolving, they needed water to drink and to keep cool.Tobias also argued that water must have played a crucial role in the dispersal of humanity across the planet. Water could have accounted for the prehistoric peopling of most of the Old World, from Africa to Europe and mainland Asia.

"In the face of all this evidence, old and new, it is time for human evolutionists to open their minds and give fair and objective thought to the role of water in the evolution of mankind. We need a new holistic emphasis on water: first for drinking, secondly as a source of food from aquatic plants and animals and, thirdly, as waterways facilitating - or impeding - the spread of humanity across the globe. Fourthly, we may no longer shy away from the questions posed by those especial features of the human skin, sweat-glands, chemistry of sweat, body temperature control and fluctuations, heat and radiation tolerance and water consumption, which in modern humans appear so different from those of savannah-adapted mammals and so reminiscent, in some cases, of aquatic mammals." [5]

But even such a world renowned and respected scientist as Phillip Tobias could not break down the wall of silence that exists around any consideration of the Aquatic Ape Theory. His views were also largely ignored.

"When a new idea is rejected, it is frequently because it flies in the face of an accepted prevailing paradigm, in this case the Savannah Hypothesis", wrote Prof. Tobias in Out There. And he goes on: "Now, at least, anthropologists should be able to examine this with a more open mind than previously when the thinking of so many was clouded by the SH." [6]

Dr Marc Verhaegen

Marc Verhaegen is a medical General Practitioner who lives and works in Putte, Belgium. He first became interested in the Aquatic Ape Theory in 1972 when he read Elaine Morgan's "Descent of Woman". His interest in the origins of humans plus his knowledge of anatomy made him start research on the subject that continues to this day. His first scientific publication was in 1985, and since then he has had at least 40 publications in books and journals, eg: Nature, NS, TREE, Med.Hypoth., Hum.Evol., HOMO, Nutr.Health etc., plus a1997 book in Dutch. He has participated in most AAT symposia: Valkenburg, Southampton, Sun City, Oslo, Ghent, London. From 1985 until her death in 2013, Marc corresponded regularly with Morgan & hundreds of scientists around the world. He is a prolific newsgroup poster and regularly contributes to the AAT yahoo newsgroup for which he is a moderator and the sci.anthroplogy.paleo newsgroup.

Some might say that Marc Verhaegen has made a greater contribution to the volume of literature on AAT than anyone, perhaps with the exception of Elaine Morgan, to whom he was a major motivation for the writing of her book, 'The Scars of Evolution'. As Algis Kuliukas [7] says:

"One of his many contributions to the AAT is in providing a more realistic timescale for the proposed 'phase' of greater aquatic adaptation in the genus Homo. Earlier, both Hardy and Morgan had suggested that the 'aquatic phase' may have preceded Australopithecines, at around 6mya. This was met with a great deal of scepticism from many 'traditional' anthropologists as Australopithecines appeared to be quite arboreal and consequently the AAH seemed to be suggesting a phase where an arboreal ape started living in the water, only to return to some arboreality again before then becoming terrestrial. Verhaegen was one of the first people to suggest that this matter might be resolved if one postulated that the last common ancestor of ape and human was already partly bipedal (also partly arboreal, of course), and that much of this bipedality was due to wading. As he put it on 29 March 2002 on the AAT forum:

"The missing factor is wading, in my opinion, or at least spending part of the time (besides arm-hanging and climbing) in the water: it not only explains the larger body size (thermoregulatory and gravitational reasons), but also the tendency towards truncal erectness of the apes, and the loss of the tail."

"This meant that the AAH has at least two "more aquatic" phases - one (posited to be in swampy mangrove forests) that preceded the Pan/Homo split, and may have actually been the major speciating factor for all the great apes - and a second (largely coastal) which was post the genus Homo from around 2.6 My. This appeared to answer most of the criticisms of timescale levelled at the AAH at a stroke. Perhaps the best account of this variant of the AAH is that published in TREE in 2002, co-authored with Stephen Munro and Pierre-Francois Puech."

Professor Stephen Cunnane

Stephen Cunnane obtained a PhD in Physiology at McGill University in 1980, followed by post-doctoral research on nutrition and brain development in Aberdeen, London, and Nova Scotia. He was a faculty member in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, from 1986 – 2003, where his research was in two overlapping areas – (i) the role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain development and human health, and (ii) the relation between ketones, the very high fat ketogenic diet and brain development. In 2003, Dr. Cunnane was awarded a senior Canada Research Chair at the Research Center on Aging and became a full professor in the departments of Medicine and Physiology & Biophysics at the Université de Sherbrooke. The main themes of his research are to use brain imaging techniques to study changing brain fuel metabolism and cognitive function during aging, and to understand how and why omega-3 fatty acid homeostasis changes during aging. He has published over 280 peer-reviewed research papers and was elected to the French National Academy of Medicine in 2009. Dr. Cunnane has published five books including two on nutritional and metabolic constraints on human brain evolution - Survival of the Fattest: The Key to Human Brain Evolution (World Scientific 2005), and Human Brain Evolution: Influence of Fresh and Coastal Food Resources (Wiley, 2010). [8]

Cunnane first became interested in an aquatic scenario in human evolution having read Morgan's The Descent of Woman. He was sufficiently impressed that it contributed to his research interests and he decided to write a paper on the response of classical evolutionists to Hardy’s idea. He concluded:

“Its main virtue is that the existence of so many of Man’s anatomical and physiological features are put into perspective without any contradictory suggestions concerning his phylogeny. It may be difficult, if not impossible to unequivocally establish the theory, but that is not so much the point; if we are interested in learning more about our evolutionary niche the aquatic theory is a valuable step towards that goal”.

After doing a post-doc with Michael Crawford (see below), who was also skeptical about the prevailing savannah hypothesis, the two of them began
researching the importance of omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients in human brain chemistry and growth. Cunnane’s original angle, as described in his most important work so far, Survival of the fattest, is that human infant adiposity is a key unique human aspect amongst terrestrial mammals, especially primates, and he explains it as ‘fuel insurance’ for infant brain growth. Where Cunnane deviates from orthodoxy is his claims that the specific nutritional input required to fuel infant brain growth is most optimally provided from the marine food chain. He provides compelling evidence that most of the micro-nutrients associated with healthy infant brain growth are found in shellfish and fish.

Professor Michael CrawfordMichael A Crawford PhD, FSB, FRCPath

Professor Michael Crawford of Imperial College London has been a major proponent of the aquatic model since researching the connection between diet and brain growth as well as optimal health. It was this dietary health angle that led Crawford, independently to the same conclusion as did Elaine Morgan, at about the same time, that coastal scenarios were more plausible in explaining the human condition than savannah ones.

Crawford’s major work on human evolution, co-written with David Marsh and published in 1989, promotes the view that changes in diet drive are at least as significant for phenotypic change as changes in habitat and basically argues that the remarkable phenomenon of human encephalization simply could not have occurred if it were not for a significant shift in diet towards foods rich in certain brain-rich nutrients such as DHA and iodine, which are most plentiful in the marine food chain. Crawford argues that a switch to a coastal diet was as much a factor in our evolution as any selection from wading, swimming or diving.

"Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that is found in large amounts in seafood," said Dr Michael Crawford, of Imperial College London. "It boosts brain growth in mammals. That is why a dolphin has a much bigger brain than a zebra, though they have roughly the same body sizes. The dolphin has a diet rich in DHA. The crucial point is that without a high DHA diet from seafood we could not have developed our big brains. We got smart from eating fish and living in water.

"More to the point, we now face a world in which sources of DHA – our fish stocks – are threatened. That has crucial consequences for our species. Without plentiful DHA, we face a future of increased mental illness and intellectual deterioration. We need to face up to that urgently. That is the real lesson of the aquatic ape theory."

[9] [10] [11] [12]

Dr Stephen Munro

Stephen Munro has been the curator at the National Museum of Australia since 2008. He studied biological anthropology at the Australian National University in Canberra and in 2010 spent two months at the Museum’s Research Centre, completing his PhD, titled Molluscs as ecological indicators in palaeoanthropological contexts. He has written a number of papers on the origin of Homo, in particular regarding our ancestors relationship to the sea.

In 2014 he brought international attention to his discovery of an 450,000-540,000 year old seashell marked with a regular engraved pattern thought to have been made by Homo erectus. It is thought to be the oldest discovery of its kind.

[12] [13]

Algis Kuliukas

Algis Kuliukas became interested in the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis in 1995 when one of his children asked him about the first people to make fire. Realising that he didn't know the answer prompted him to become interested again in human origins. When his daughter was later born at home with the aid of a birthing tub, he became fascinated again with AAH and wondered why there was so little information about it in academic texts. The only answers he could find were that people were ignorant about it or felt peer-pressure to ridicule it. It was for this reason that Algis decided to go back to university to do a masters degree in human evolution. His tutor told him that the reason the AAH did not appear in any accepted theories of Human evolution, was that nobody had attempted to test the hypothesis scientifically and there were no peer reviewed papers on the subject.

So in 2003 he began a PhD at UWA, (Perth, Australia) investigating "A Wading Component in the Origin of Hominid Bipedality?", part-time. In 2007 he helped tutor 1st year Human Biology/Anatomy students at UWA.

Qualifications: B.Sc. (Joint Hons) Zoology/Pharmacology. Nottingham University 1981. P.G.C.E. (Biology with Maths) Nottingham University 1982, M.Sc. (With distinction, Human Evolution and Behaviour, specialising in Wading in Hominoidae) UCL 2000.
Microsoft Certified Trainer and Database Administrator. Current Occupations: Part-time PhD Student (UWA), (Bipedal origins, Testing the Wading Hypothesis). Part-time High-School Biological Sciences Teacher. [14]

Erika Schagatay

Erika SchagatayErika Schagatay, born in Lappland, Sweden, was an active scuba diver in the Ice Sea, North of Norway, in the 1980s, but is now more devoted to advanced freediving,inspired to go deeper from observing the world competition elite. She studied biology at Lund University and after Master’s study in marine biology at Göteborg University, completed her doctoral dissertation on human breath-hold diving back in Lund in 1996. Since 2000, she has worked at Mid Sweden University where she heads the Environmental Physiology Group, studying human performance in extreme environments. The special focus is on human breath-hold diving, but her research also involves high altitude climbing, thermalphysiologyand some pathological conditions causing limited oxygen supply. Field studies involving, for example,Japanese Ama divers, competition freedivers and high altitude populations have led to novel findings, further explored and explained through laboratory experiments, and results have been presented in about 50 original scientific publications.

Erika is also active as a certified trainer for recreational freedivers and has worked as a board member in the Swedish Diving Federation with developing safety regulations for freediving and establishing competitive freediving as a sport in Sweden under the official sports federation, which was accomplished during 2012. She has been internationally consulted concerning freediving safety by both AIDA and CMAS, and has been involved in the education of baromedical specialists in freediving physiology in several European countries. [17]

Derek Ellis

Derek EllisIn the late 1980s and early 1990s the Canadian field ecologist, Professor Derek Ellis, wrote a number of papers based on his growing interest that early human ancestors may have lived in coastal wetlands. Put simply, his argument was that, on ecological grounds, such habitats would have been ideal places for hominids to have inhabited.

As an ecologist with experience with primates he was already sceptical that humans had evolved on the savannah on the grounds that any hominin newcomers there would have to survive by out-competing the species that were already there - such as baboons, which had already colonised the niche, and were faster and more aggressive - in addition to avoiding being preyed upon by the even better grassland-adapted lions, leopards and hyenas. Ellis decided that in order to survive, the human species would have needed to have already evolved appropriate adaptations to grasslands, in advance of populating them. The only way human ancestors could have done this, he thought, was if they first inhabited a totally new ecosystem, which enabled the evolution of increased brain-power, complex vocalizations and foresight. And he believed the most likely place for this to have happened were coastal wetland and shorelines. These, he argues, have ample and easily available sedentary and sessile foods such as clams and fish. They are also characterized by few dangerous parasites and pests. Ellis got into exploring these issues and decided that a marine wetland phase was appropriate for the evolution of two-leggedness and reduced body hair as well as the cultural pre-adaptations needed for them to take on the savannah competitors and predators. An obvious suitable location for this to have happened, Ellis argues, was the North end of the Rift Valley.

Marcel F. Williams

Marcel Williams, a San Francisco Bay area science writer, is another proponent of more aquatic scenarios of human evolution. He is the managing editor of the Paleoprimatology and Human Evolution forum. He first encountered the aquatic ape hypothesis in 1970 when he read Morris’ The Naked Ape and became a proponent from 1973 after he encountered Elaine Morgan’s The Descent of Woman. It was Williams who first coined the term "aquarboreal" to describe a wading-climbing component to the locomotor repertoire, used by Verhaegen et al.

Williams wrote a paper entitled: Morphological evidence of marine adaptations in human kidneys, (Med Hypotheses. 2006;66(2):247-57. Epub 2005 Nov 2.) [18] in which he shows that human beings, uniquely among primates, have lobulated, multipyramidal, medullas in their kidneys, something which is also seen in nearly all marine mammals. He states that:

"The fact that several terrestrial mammalian species of semiaquatic marine ancestry exhibit kidneys with multipyramidal medullas, may suggest that humans could have, also, inherited the lobulated medullas of their kidneys from coastal marine ancestors. And a specialized marine diet in ancient human ancestry could, also, explain the reactivation and enumeration of corporeal eccrine sweat glands and the copious secretion of salt tears. The substantial loss of genetic variation in humans relative to other hominoid primates, combined with the apparent isolation of early Pliocene human ancestors from particular retroviruses that infected all other African primate species, may suggest that such a semi-aquatic marine phase, during the emergence of Homo, may have occurred on an island off the coast of Africa during the early Pliocene."

Gareth F. Morgan

Gareth F. Morgan

Gareth Morgan, son of Elaine Morgan, is an independent researcher, writer, lecturer and broadcaster. He was the author of the original paper on reverse osmosis in humans [1] and The Acheulian Handaxe - a toolmaker's perspective. [2]





Algis V. Kuliukas1, and Elaine Morgan2, Chapter 6: Aquatic Scenarios in the Thinking on Human Evolution: What are they and How do they Compare? "Was Man More Aquatic in the Past?, Fifty Years After Alister Hardy", Banthom ebooks, 2011, p. 106
Cunnane SC. Survival of the fattest. New Jersey: World Scientific 2005.
Cunnane SC. The aquatic ape theory reconsidered. Med Hypoth 1980; 6: p.57.
Crawford MA, Marsh D. The driving force. New York: Harper & Row 1989.
Crawford MA, Bloom M, Broadhurst CL, et al. Evidence for the unique function of docosahexanoic acid (DHA) during
the evolution of the modern hominid brain. Lipids 2000; 34: S39-S47.
Langdon J. Has an aquatic diet been necessary for hominin brain evolution and functional development? Brit J Nutr 2006; 96: 7-17.
Cunnane SC, Broadhurst CL, Crawford MA. Rift Valley lake fish and shellfish provided brain-specific nutrition for early Homo. Br J Nutr 1998; 79: 3-21.
Cunnane SC, Crawford MA. Survival of the fattest: Fat babies were the key to evolution of the large human brain. Comp Bioch 2003; 136: 17-26.
Ellis DV. Proboscis monkey and aquatic ape. Sarawak Mus J 1986; 36: 251-62.
Ellis DV. Swimming monkeys and apes - Know their biology. Fresno, Ca: Proceedings Western Regional Meeting Conference, American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums April 5-8 1987.
Ellis DV. Wetlands or aquatic ape? Availability of food resources. Nutr Health 1993; 9: 205-17.
Ellis DV. Is an aquatic ape viable in terms of marine ecology and primate behaviour? In: Roede M, Wind J, Patrick J, Reynolds V, Eds. The aquatic ape: Fact or fiction? London: Souvenir Press 1991; pp. 36-74.

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