Aquatic Ape Theory


The Aquatic Ape Theory was popularised by Elaine Morgan in the face of much antagonism from mainstream scientists. You can read more here. And see her talk at TED here. Essentially she argues that at some point in our evolution we adapted to being semi-aquatic; and describes several features common to humans, semi-aquatic mammals and aquatic mammals, but not primarily land based mammals.

The comments after the You Tube clip give you a real taste of the antagonism this hypothesis arouses!

And a more recent reference to the theory in The Guardian, 27 April 2013.

And in 2016, David Attenborough did a two part show on BBC R4 called The Waterside Ape. Aquatic Ape Theory as a label now being replaced with waterside ape. Some more on it here –

Meanwhile – however evolution ended up giving me the body I have, I shall enjoy immersing it in the brine and the chlorine.

10 thoughts on “Aquatic Ape Theory

  1. dwighttowers says:

    I shall go have a look at the vid. Usually after reading youtube comments I need a shower…

    There’s a novel that talks about aquatic ape theory quite a bit – Trajectories by the late Julian Rathbone. Came out about 15 years ago….

  2. I’ve bought 2 of Elaine’s books since seeing the TED talk you mentioned. I’m now half way through The Descent of Woman which includes lots of AA theory, and then will be starting on the unadulterated AA book. As a raging feminist I don’t know how I’ve managed to miss her up to now! Isn’t she wonderful?! A fitting icon for your blog name Mr and Mrs Ape :)

  3. Hi all,
    We did not descend from aquatic apes, of course, although our ancestors were anatomically & physiologically not adapted to running over open plains as some anthropologists still believe. Instead, Pleistocene Homo populations simply followed the coasts & rivers in Africa & Eurasia (800 ka they even reached Flores >18 km overseas), google, eg, “econiche Homo”.
    –eBook “Was Man more aquatic in the past?” introd.Phillip Tobias
    –guest post at Greg Laden’s blog

  4. FYI, some recent info:
    Human Evolution in 2 special editions publishes the proceedings of the symposium with David Attenborough & Donald Johanson on human waterside evolution ‘Human Evolution: Past, Present & Future’ in London 8-10 May 2013:
    Special Edition Part 1 (end 2013)
    – Peter Rhys-Evans: Introduction, google ‘rhys evans vaneechoutte’,
    – Stephen Oppenheimer: Human’s Association with Water Bodies: the ‘Exaggerated Diving Reflex’ and its Relationship with the Evolutionary Allometry of Human Pelvic and Brain Sizes,
    – JH Langdon: Human Ecological Breadth: Why Neither Savanna nor Aquatic Hypotheses can Hold Water,
    – Stephen Munro: Endurance Running versus Underwater Foraging: an Anatomical and Palaeoecological Perspective, google ‘econiche Homo’,
    – Algis Kuliukas: Wading Hypotheses of the Origin of Human Bipedalism,
    – Marc Verhaegen: The Aquatic Ape Evolves: Common Misconceptions and Unproven Assumptions about the So-Called Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, google ‘greg laden blog verhaegen’,
    – CL Broadhurst & Michael Crawford: The Epigenetic Emergence of Culture at the Coastline: Interaction of Genes, Nutrition, Environment and Demography,
    Special Edition Part 2 (begin 2014) with 12 contributions.

  5. Snailquake says:

    Nice blog! I just thought you might like to know that the link to Elaine Morgan’s website now goes to a gambling site. The new url for her website is:

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