Monday, June 18, 2012

Elaine Morgan and her TED talk about aquatic apes

My blog is about traveling the media landscape and I recently watched a very compelling talk about human evolution that presented an entirely new idea to me. Elder scientist Elaine Morgan is a defender of the aquatic ape theory for human evolution. This approach challenges the human origin theory that we became upright walking hunter gatherers on the tree-dotted savanahs of Africa. Instead the aquatic ape theory explains our unique primate characteristics by proposing that our distant ancestors lived in a wet environment and spent a lot of time in water.

This watery origin is a strong explanation for our relative lack of hair of fur. Most mammals that have little or no hair are largely aquatic like dolphins and manitees. Another bare skin species is the elephant that has established roots in an aquatic environment. This does not mean that all aquatic animals lack hair or fur, but hairlessness is a trait specific to aquatic mammals.

She also said that moving in water would have encouraged our upright walking, citing the fact that land apes will walk upright in water.

Another point was our ability to regulate our breathing. She said that most animals just breath and cannot have precise control unless they are aquatically adapted. Morgan also said that control of breath could have lead to our speech capabilities.

She also said that fossil evidence repeatedly indicates aquatic flora in the presence of early hominids.

In the included video courtesy of TED, Elaine Morgan explains all this very convincingly and challenges the entrenched view of academia that insists the aquatic ape theory is "lunatic fringe" science. I found her arguments very convincing if for no other reason than I love being in water. Taking a dip is my preferred method for cooling off on a hot day. I've even joked that if I were given a million years I would evolve into an otter. Perhaps that all already happened the other way around.

The aquatic ape human evolutionary theory does not deny that early hominids progressed into other environments, including savanahs, but it explains the beginnings of our unique traits and abilities.

The increasingly famous TED talks were my source for this information. I recommend TED to anyone with an inquisitive mind who is able to think about things (I know not everyone qualifies). TED covers more subjects than I am even aware of. Organizations like these give me a little hope for humanity.