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Were Human Ancestors Aquatic Apes?


03/09/2009

Or did pre-human primates just like the easy, filling pickin's provided by shoreline shellfish?

by Craig Weatherby


British zoologist Sir Alister Hardy first proposed the Aquatic Ape Theory of human evolution in 1960.


Dr. Hardy's major pointthat humans evolved from apes that spent most of their time walking and paddling in watershows significant holes and remains unproven.


But his idea parallels a better-supported proposal… one that puts fish and the unique “marine” omega-3 called DHA at the center of human evolution.


Although most paleoanthropologists tend to agree that our ancestors first rose upright on dry land, a few suggest an alternate possibility.


Sir Alister devised the Aquatic Ape idea in the 1930s but kept it quiet for more than 20 years. He postulated that several human traitsfrom relatively minimal body hair to the ability to sweat moisture and saltcan be explained only through the idea that early hominids once lived in semi-aquatic environments.


The hypothesis claims that our ancestors had to wade regularly through shallow lake- or riverside waters in order to reach shellfish, aquatic plants, and other potential food sources.


More recent research indicates that some early human ancestors lived on the seacoast of East Africa and ate easy-to-harvest shellfishlike today's scallopsin abundance (See “Omega-3 Brain Evolution Theory Gets a Boost”).


And renowned British brain researcher Michael Crawford, PhD argues pretty persuasively that humans could not have developed such disproportionately big brainswhose cells abound in omega-3 DHAwithout having lived primarily on aquatic animals and plants from shallow fresh and coastal waters.


As Dr. Crawford notes, the famed prehistoric female “Lucy” was discovered at the Olduvai Gorge. But when Lucy and her clan lived there that gorge was really the Olduvai River!


It's certainly food for thought …

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