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ABOUT EARLY WATER STAGES IN HUMANITY :
A COMPARISON BETWEEN THE AAT AND THE INITIAL BIPEDALISM THEORY
Première publication : septembre 1997
Mise en ligne : 30 juin 2003
par François de Sarre
THE AQUATIC APE THEORY ( AAT )
The AAT hypothesizes that humans developed from apes through an aquatic : stage in evolution, during the transition from the last common ancestor we shared with them.
As the original theory was done by the marine biologist Alister HARDY in 1960, the palaeontological datae were rather scarce, in the sense that one proponent Ramapithecus kept a major role in the commonly admitted History of humanity.
Australopithecus also seemed to be a good candidate for an early bipedal "human being".
The "gap" (*) between Ramspithecus ( 9 million years ) and Australopithecus ( 4 million years ) appeared, then, to be the favorable period when a supposed "marine ape" has lived in the oceans, and when the evolution of human bipedalism has occurred.
Since, molecular biologists do present new evidence for the time frame of human evolution. Simon EASTEAL ( 1997 ) claims in a recent work that the divergence between humans and chimpanzees was done, 4.0-3.6 million years ago, suggesting : "that the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees was bipedal and that the trait has been lost in chimpanzees rather than gained in humans".
Also Australopithecus is meaning to have lost bipedal habits ( GEE, 1995 ). And Ramapithecus is declaring definitely as a next relative of our modern orang-outang ( COPPENS, 1983 ).
Indisputably, the acquisition of bipedal gait was obtained a long time before an alleged "gap" had taken place in the evolution of some terrestrial Primates, allegedly a few million years ago. The Aquatic Ape Theory, indeed, is dealing with a phantom... !
Therefore, the AAT develops core ideas that are present in the Initial Bipedalism Theory :
- Man cannot have evolved on land.
- Many features are found only in humans and in aquatic or in post-aquatic mammals.
Elaine MORGAN, a "pupil" of Sir Alister Hardy, claimed in her book, The Aquatic Ape ( 1982 ), that : "Something must have happened to the ancestors of Homo sapiens which did not happen to the ancestors of gorillas and chimpanzees".
She argued that : "No fossil relics have yet been discovered from the period when these changes were taking place". - As a matter of fact, it is yet not necessary to invent an "aquatic ape" in order to forge an ascent to man ! Human beings may have come in a direct line from the ancient mammals...
On the contrary, apes must he now regarded as a further development beyond human kind ( dehominization, HEUVELMANS 1954, 1966, 1974 ).
Specifically, AAT-proponents claim that the "aquatic apes" have become less and less aquatic ( from being fully acclimated to sea life ! ), as they allegedly began to "stand erect" in wading along the shores... - But predators in shallow waters, such as sharks or crocodiles, should have presented for million years ( until today ) a big problem for any ape-like shore creature !
If some primates ever went, into the ocean, it is attempted that they have soon extended to open sea-surfaces : and that they did not remain in close to the dangerous shore-lines...
The so-called "Steller’s sea-ape", described in 1741, although not yet listed by science, or any "mermaids" reported from places where no species of sirenians are known to live, may represent such forms of primate adapted in marine life !
An other relevant question, referring to the AAT, is to ask for what reason a low-browed distorted ape-skull once developed into a spherical fittingly built human skull
in some bipedal purpose ?
(*) perhaps, only a simple extrapolation of stratigraphic datae that are to he reduced consequently, under the light of new investigations.
THE INITIAL BIPEDALISM THEORY (B.I.)
The B. I. ( for : Bipédie Initiale ) hypothesizes that humans developed from a peculiar stock, not from the apes !
The theory suggests that the first mammals were bipeds that issued from a former aquatic stage.
Man’s large globular brain, indeed, is not an indication of simian ancestry, but it shows us a primitive feature that could have been obtained only in water.
Max WESTENHÖFER, a German anatomist, declared in 1926 than man is developed from a remote animal that itself developed from an amphibian form of life. As the Belgian zoologist Serge FRECHKOP also emphasized : monkeys and other quadrupeds originated from bipedal forms ! [ s. in Bibliography ]
This leads us to regard "modern" humans as the least removed, morphologically and anatomically, from the aquatic and big-headed common ancestor to all mammals !
As a matter of fact, like in the AAT, we shall find some arguments that imply a former marine existence of mankind, such as :
- the graceful "streamlined" shape of man,
- the human baby’s swimming response,
- the diving reflex,
- the webbed fingers and toes,
- the pattern of human hair alignment for swimming,
- salt tears, subcutaneous fat, hymens, and other traits.
Thus, facts have proved the AAT was in the wrong, because most of the claims mentioned above are not only shared by man and some water mammals, but also by simian primates and other land-dwelling mammals !
In the theorical framework of Initial Bipedalism, these assertions can be now reinterpreted, and actually explained by declaring that pre-humans are the ankle-joint animals from which other groups of mammals have branched. Reminiscences of an aquatic past can also occur beyond human kind, if quadrupeds are told to descend from bipedal man-like ancestors.
Regarding to the AAT-assertion that human "hairlessness" is due to water habits, I would surely disagree on this point. I am inclined to think that our aquatic ancestors were as pilous as all primates are, including man.
But most of the disagreements with the AAT take place in the hypothetical transformation from an ape into a hominid, even if occurring in a water environment, instead of "on the land".
What’s now the real difference between AAT and "savannah theory" ? Either a terrestrial ape or an aquatic ape undoubtely remain... apes !
François de Sarre
COPPENS, Yves (1983) : "Le singe, l’Afrique et l’homme", Fayard, le temps des sciences, Paris.
EASTEAL, Simon & G. HERBERT (1997) : "Molecular Evidence from the Nuclear Genome for the Time Frame of Human Evolution", J. of Mol. Evol., 44 ( 1 ) : 121-132, NY.
FRECHKOP, Serge (1949) : "Le crâne de l’homme" en tant que crâne de mammifère",
Bull. Mus. R. Hist. Nat. Belg., 25 : 1-12, Bruxelles.
GEE, Henry (1995) : "Uprooting the Human Family Tree", Nature, 373 : 15 ; 5th January ; London.
HARDY, Sir Alister (1960) : "Was man more aquatic in the past ?" The New Scientist, 7 : 642-645, London.
HEUVELMANS, Bernard (1954) : "L’homme doit-il être considéré comme le moins spécialisé des mammifères ?" Sciences et Avenir, 85 ( 3 ) : 132-136, Paris.
HEUVELMANS, Bernard (1966) : "Le chimpanzé descend t-il de L’homme ?", Planète, 31 : 87-97, Paris.
HEUVELMANS, B. & B. PORCHNEV (1974) : "L’Homme de Néanderthal est toujours vivant.", ed. Plon, Paris.
MORGAN, Elaine (1982) : "The Aquatic Ape", Souvenir Press, London.
SARRE de, François (1994) : "The Theory of Initial Bipedalism on the question of human origins", Biology Forum, Rivista di Biologia, 87 ( 2/3 ) : 237-258, University of Perugia, Italy.
SARRE de, François (1994) : "Waren unsere Vorfahren Wasseraffen oder Wassermenschen ?", Mystics, 13 ( 3 ) : 20-21, Berlin.
SARRE de, François (1997) :"Were aquatic pre-humans the first vertebrates to enter the land ?" in : The CFZ Yearbook 1997, p. 142-156, Exeter [ UK ].
WESTENHÖFER, Max (1935) : "Das Problem der Menschwerdung", Nornen-Verlag, Berlin.
WESTENHÖFER, Max (1953) : "Le problème de la genèse de l’homme", condensé et annoté par Serge FRECHKOP, ed. Sobeli, Bruxelles.