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The aquatic theory uninterrupted?

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Kim wrote that man's need for plentiful water made him settle near water.

I think it's the other way around.

Why did man need so much water? Why is his cooling system so inefficient as far as water usage goes? Maybe it was because he spent ages in an aquatic environment, where water was ALREADY plentiful, and thus developed a cooling system which required a lot of water.

Then, once this cooling system was aquired, he could never again settle anywhere EXCEPT near water.

* * *

Concerning breath-control, we have seen two arguments:
1. Diving adaptation
2. Adaptation for communication

First of all, #2 has yet to occur in any other species...correct? Are there any other terrestrial species which can control their breath and talk? However, among aquatic species, seals can talk -- there is a harbour seal in a california aquarium which says 'hi there' to people who walk by. We believe that dolphins & whales are talking to each other.

But, more importantly, if you believe that evolution only occurs by random mutations & survival of the fittest, then you must accept that #1 (diving adaptation) would cause a FAR MORE RAPID SELECTION for survival than #2. If you need to dive for food and you keep breathing under water, you're going to die instantly, thus not selecting you for future generations. If you can't control your breath to talk.... big deal! It would surely talk FAR, FAR longer for the inability to talk to 'select' you.

Personally I don't believe that evolution is just random mutation with survival of the fittest, and I don't believe in Occam's razor, but if YOU believe in those, then the simplest answer to breath control is #1: aquatic adaptation.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
Okay, define "talk". Because if all we are talking about is mimicry then what about all the parrots, and mockingbirds (among others) that can "talk"?
Parrots can do more than mimmick. One parrot has been taught to talk with meaning -- totally amazing. It could say what sort of food it felt like, it could tell you what color a piece of colored paper was, and even more amazing:

- The researcher would show the parrot two different pieces of colored plastic, possibly of different color and/or different shapes. She would then ask the parrot, 'What same?' It would say, for example, 'color' if they were the same color, or 'shape' if they were the same shape. Then she would ask 'what different?'. The parrot would then reply 'color' or 'shape' depending on which was different.
- Then the researcher showed the parrot two identical pieces of plastic, and asked 'what different?' The parrot replied, 'color.' The researcher replied 'no, color same, what different?'. The parrot paused and replied, 'none!'

So, this is sort of what I was asking about -- other terrestrial species which can 'talk.' Perhaps this means that bird songs are not just random, but are a form of communication.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
Considdering the Preferences for living in aquatic areas. This can be measured directly by price of property on the beach or with seawiev. Why should a beast from the savana pay so much hard cach just to see the sea, if it was not due to some very fundamental urges inbread in us in a distant past.
Bird song serves many communicative functions. "Foreplay", warning signals etc. But their nervous system is not complex enough to allow for any conscious form of meaning/ symbolic representations. Different species of birds do of course vary on songs/ types. But even more interesting is the experiments showing that the song is not purely instinctive, they learn from their parents and neighbours, hence "dialects" can be observed within bird species living at different locations. Never heard of the experiment Eric is mentioning, really interesting. One must be careful however of interpreting this as they reason (i.e complex learning) as this instance at least can be explained purely behavioristic. And can some parrots not breathold dive by the way?

Gustavs measurement method of aquatic prefrence is in my opinion also very interesting. The problem remains however that a mere propensity to live near the sea (as accounted for by Kim Eslinger) does not neccisarily mean that we have had an aquatic evolutionary stage (even though Eric accounts for this). Living near the sea today may be a byproduct of culture/ technological evolution (locomotion, trade, fishing etc).
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Reading my last post, I find it poorly written and a bit confusing. Regarding Gustavs measurement method: Kim accounts for a prefrence for living near the sea not automatically pointing to an aquatic evolutionary history. Eric counters this argument with our inefficient cooling system forcing us to live near the water. So we have two hypotheses here:

1. Because we are built for aquatic conditions (i.e poor cooling system), we must live near the sea to prosper.

2. Humans live near the sea today because we need a water supply and the sea gives us easy means of transport (among other things).

Lets discusse the evidence for and against these two hypotheses?
The question is, if we evolved from an aquatic species, why did we leave the water in the first place? What benefits were to be gained? Let me put forth a theory of why man loves water so much- it is an escape from gravity and offers instant musculoskeletal relaxation. Because we are bipedal a tremendous load is carried by our skeletons and centers on the small surface area of the feet. Once immersed (as long as one is comfortable in water of course) that load is almost nonexistent and the body as well as the brain feels supported and fee from constant gravitational pull.. Using Occam's razor (sorry Eric)I feel that the reality of the enormous pleasure one feels from being in water is much simpler than the theory that we evolved from an aquatic species.
Let's be honest with ourselves.

It appears that this topic is very closely related to a person's belief system, so much so that after all of these back-and-forth arguments, not a single person here seems even remotely close to changing their original point of view.

When it comes to belief systems, people will ignore logic (and I am probably just as guilty as anyone).

If anyone has CHANGED their opinion due to this discussion, please come forward...

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
I don't think the religious would ever be swayed by the aquatic ape theory, but I don't see why a rational mind that thrives on empirical evidence can't be.

I for one like the theory - it is by nature appealing to a freediver. However liking a theory is inadequate substance for belief, which is why we've been accruing and analysing evidence.

I think of all the explanations for MDR the aquatic ape theory is the most credible. I find the most compelling evidence is skin composition and eccrine glands (thanks Scot). However I don't disclude other explanations, especially for the MDR itself. I see the dive response as more of a general 'system shutdown' which could be applied to many situations and could have evolved to support any of those, at any time in mammalian evolution. (Don't discount MHR because of brain size - our brains have grown emormously over the last few million years).

For now the most probable explanation is MDR, and it is with pleasure that I can say that my initial synicism has been assuaged so that the rational now complies with the romantic.

I think that we can continue with this thread though, as there is still a lot of whittling required to get to the hard wood of the theory.
Eric, I have gained knowledge about the aquatic theory during this discussion. I was fairly blank about the aquatic theory when I started the thread, but am not any longer. About my belief in the theory, I am neither for or against it. To me it would be premature to believe in or reject the theory before I have more information, and this is what I think this thread is useful for. I am surprised of the diverse knowledge that has come forth from multiple diciplines in this thread.

But I agree in one thing. If we do not keep a focus on data/evidence, we will not come to any form of agreement (not that that neccisarily is a goal), we will then be like non-scientists, sitting at our own mountains shouting to the others sitting on thier own.
I too have learned much more about the aquatic theory than I had previously known, as well as supplemented my meager evolutionary knowledge to boot. It seems that some of us have a wealth of knowledge to share and as Bernt states it becomes of prime importance that we try and examine as best we can the topics at hand using sound scientific principle. In order to keep things moving in a positive direction I would recommend that sources be cited whenever one wishes to present "evidence". Since I am not nearly as well versed as others in the topic, I am content to sit back and read carefully.
As for expecting hard scientific facts for the theory of the aquatic anchestors, I am afraid that most finds are either in the dry (previous savanna) areas or in the last ice ages retreating glaciers. What I believe is that the findings are scewed in one direction due to natural selection of where things are preserved. The littoral zone is by nature a harsh environment for preservation.

As for the tendency of humans to prefere the beach as a habitat, I think it might not just be written off as just a cultural or conveniency behaviour. The habitat seeking behaviour is very strongly coupled to the survival of most species. Reprogrammable genetic mecanisms to adopt to changing environmental pressure probably plays a role. (See next for survival benefits,)

I am not conviced that our more primitive anchestors even could survive at the savanna. At later stages, with tools and language for planning purposes; yes. But earlier no. I think they would need to have easy access to a steady and varied food supply throughout the year. Only in costal areas where the sea can supplement the food do I think it would be feasible to sustain such a helpless creature as our distant ancestors.

Following from this, we do not need to discuss a fully adopded seal like ape, only an oportunistic ape willing to get wet often to get food. Taken the slow speed such a beast probably could swim, and taken that tools was still to be aquired, we are probably talking about a creature with good abillities to dive down to some depth in order to get to the rich supply of shellfish and crustaeans.
I was under the impression that our coastal ancestors ate a tremendous amount of tortoise(s). I remember watching a documentary of an archaeological dig and there were tortoise shells everywhere. The anthropologist said that turtles are an almost perfect food because they were are very nutricious, easily caught, and were quite plentiful back then. If that were the case, diving was not as necassary as we might think.
One other point we haven't spoken about is the sudden increase in intelligence/brain size which happened to our species. Again, the aquatic ape theory brings a nice explanation, and in my mind the savannah theory is lacking.

We know that learning new motor skills is a great stimulus to brain activity & growth. For example, learning a musical instrument, learning a martial art, or learning to swim; all of these require learning new motor skills.

Elaine Morgan noticed that all the marine mammals are of above average intelligence. Although dolphins & whales are the most popular examples, seals can be very smart too.

I just saw a program called 'Golden seals of the skeleton coast.' It showed the most amazing example of seal intelligence. A south african fishing boat slows its motor when the sonar shows a huge school of fish. The seals know that the change in motor pitch signals fish discovery, and one thousand seals race to the location of the motor sound. By the time they get there, the fisherman have dropped a net in a loop, completely enclosing a giant school of sardines. The net has floats, forming a ring around the sardines with a diameter of perhaps seventy meters. The seals arrive and breach the water, flying over the net and landing in the pod of sardines. They feed in a frenzy, knowing that time is limited. As the net pulls in around them, they feed until the last possible second, and then they all jump out of the net; out of 1000 seals, only one or two are too greedy and wait too long, and get caught in the net....

Anyway, Elaine Morgan theorized that the marine mammals are of above average intelligence due to the fact that they had to learn to swim. She theorizes that human brain growth was stimulated as well, when humans needed to learn to swim. The theory also assumes that the need to swim and dive taught us breath control, which then allowed us to talk. Then, when we were able to leave the water (by environmental circumstances), we already had a somewhat smarter brain due to the swimming, and we could talk too, and talking + smarter brain = stimulus for more brain growth and tool building, which reaches a certain point when brain growth is almost unstoppable.

She also mentioned the savannah theory of sudden brain growth, and it was so unconvincing I can't even remember it... maybe someone can remind us.

The problem I see is that whatever the savannah theory for brain growth, the brain growth didn't happen to any other savannah creature. Likewise, although marine mammals may be intelligent, they don't build airplanes and space ships. To me, this means that the pattern our species went through must be unique. Suppose, for example, that our species did enter the water for a while, and then came back out on to land. Which other species did that? If the answer is none, then that could explain why humans have advanced so far. There must be some unique pattern which can explain why we jumped beyond all other species. Anything which happened in the savannah probably happened to other creatures. Anything which happened in the water probably happened to other creatures. However, if we went back and forth from the water to the savannah, perhaps that SEQUENCE did not happen to other species.

Imagine that there are other planets out there with similar chemicals and life. Perhaps the magic formula for intelligence in the universe is going into the water and then back out again. Perhaps if there are intelligent aliens somewhere in the universe, they also went in the water and out again, and in so doing developed great intelligence.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
Interestingly enough I was flicking through TV channels this afternoon and saw a short 30 min docu on the Aquatic Ape Theory on Discovery Science channel. Nothing mind blowing but a good intro to the topic.
I'm suddenly reminded my Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
- The humans consider themselves more intelligent than the dolphins because it has invented the wrist watch, New York and the atom bomb.
- The dolphins consider themselves more intelligent than the humans...for the exact same reasons.

But besides that, we should remember that the other man apes (chimps, gorillas & orangutangs) are considered very intelligent also. Personally, I think the human high intelligence have been triggered by a combination of the primate background & the (theoretical) aquatic adaptations.

(But then again, how can we even be sure if we are of the highest intelligence on this planet when we're still so unsure how to define inteligence?)

Chris Engelbrecht, Copenhagen
As for human brain growth as evidence: Seafood may have laid the possibleized human brain growth as different fatty acids are essential. Our brain size relative to body mass is without compare on this planet. And our brains have evolved extremly rapidly. Our immense cortical areas are primarily frontal, prefrontal and temporal areas of grey matter. These areas are now known to be relatively more involved in planning, inhibition of impulses and in language than other areas (fMRI, PET, MEG studies). If these are adaptions accounting for our bigger brains, we must find ecological or social selection pressures driving such an evolution. Living in multiple habitats (i.e both land and water), higher population density etc as accounted for in my first post on this topic may have led to such pressures. Planning and impulse inhibition: Different hunting strategies in multiple habitats. Cheating and cooperating with a large ammount of individuals. Language: I think has a separate (and perhaps most important) evolutionary history, mainly having to do with imitating successful individuals in sexual competition... Evidence is lacking as we are looking back in time though as Gustav points out. To sum it up, I find postulating one reason for brain growth lacking. There were probably many, complex, interacting selection pressures driving evolution of the brain. Living in multiple habitats may be one of these.
And as Engel points out, we have no means of knowing if we are the more intelligent ("better") animal "even" on this planet. IQ is a statistical construct based on distribution of individuals on standardized tasks within a population at a particular time. Nothing more, even if it does correlate highly with college grades etc. But humans do have to most complicated social structure and language of any species. Human culture is not uniqe in itself, even though some belive so (chimps have some culture for example), but the extent to which we are culturally influenced is without compare. Trying to keep this now quiet thread alive :)
Dolphins have bigger brains than humans do, and isn't their body mass similar? This would mean their brain weight to body mass ratio would be even bigger than ours.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
On a little aside, the seaweed posidonia oceanicus (spelling) apparently was a terrestial plant that ended up in the water - took a few million years. Interesting point that indicates two way traffic.