New Evidence for the Aquatic Ape Theory

When I watched Planet Earth, I was impressed that the most successful aquatic animals were mammals (whales and dolphins). Fish had had a huge head start. Mammals such as whales and dolphins had moved back into the water after long evolution on land. Something promoted by terrestrial evolution allowed them to dominate their new world. That “something” is probably learning ability, although research on whale learning has yet to be done.

This is one reason the aquatic ape theory of human evolution makes sense. Judging from whales and dolphins, a little brain power can go a long way. Early humans had not only brains but hands. The combination made sea creatures extremely vulnerable. The threat was so flexible and different than previous threats they couldn’t tweak a few genes and escape. To take advantage of this new food source, humans had to wade into the water — the presumed initial reason (by those who believe in the aquatic ape theory) for bipedality.

Anthropologists at Arizona State recently reported evidence that early humans did indeed live on coastlines, with ready access to fish and shellfish. Other researchers had found evidence of this as early as 120,000 years ago; the new evidence pushes the date of earliest coastline habitation even earlier, to about 160,000 years ago.

“We also found what archaeologists call bladelets – little blades less than 10 millimeters in width, about the size of your little finger,” [one of the anthropologists] says. “These could be attached to the end of a stick to form a point for a spear, or lined up like barbs on a dart – which shows they were already using complex compound tools.”

If you have watched Survivor, you will remember tools much like that being used to catch fish.

Thanks to Michael Vassar.

4 Replies to “New Evidence for the Aquatic Ape Theory”

  1. When I watched Planet Earth, I was impressed that the most successful aquatic animals were mammals (whales and dolphins). Fish had had a huge head start. Mammals such as whales and dolphins had moved back into the water after long evolution on land. Something promoted by terrestrial evolution allowed them to dominate their new world. That “something” is probably learning ability, although research on whale learning has yet to be done.

    I think you are subjectively anthropomorphizing. Define what you mean by sucessful and dominate. It is not clear to me.

  2. Whales dominate in the sense that they are huge and eat others but are not themselves eaten. Top of the food chain, in other words. Similar for dolphins. They eat a vast number of fish that cannot eat them.

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