Elaine Morgan

M.A.(Oxon.), FLS, FRSL, OBE

The Aquatic

Ape Theory

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CHARLES DARWIN believed that human beings shared a common ancestor with the surviving African apes.

Genetic evidence has confirmed that suggestion, and it forms the basis of modern evolutionary teaching.

There is far less agreement about the reasons why we differ so widely from the other apes in so many respects.

IN 1960 PROFESSOR ALISTER HARDY published his idea that several of these differences would be much easier to explain if our ancestors had lived not on the open grasslands  but at the water's edge. His reasons for suggesting it were based on comparative anatomy. For example, a naked skin lined with a layer of  fat is unknown in other land mammals, but relatively common in aquatic mammals. He also  reasoned that  wading would have provided a strong incentive for walking upright on two legs. Most scientists at the time treated the idea as part of science's lunatic fringe, on a par with UFOs and the Yeti, and many of them still hold that view.

Charles Darwin FRS

Sir Alister Hardy FRS

OPPOSITION TO Hardy's idea was  based on the firm belief that the first bipeds evolved on the savannah, and that torrid habitat was said to explain why humans evolved along different lines from the other apes.This belief was shown to be mistaken  by the palaeontologists themselves more than twenty years ago,  after Hardy's death. But  they have not yet put forward an alternative explanation of why humans are different.

HARDY NEVER fulfilled his intention of  writing a book about his idea. I first heard of it in 1972 and have been promoting it ever since. This was done with Hardy's consent and approval and he wrote a preface to my second book.


A rather more detailed account (about  a 10 minute read) of  the current situation can be read here, or you can DOWNLOAD a copy of the latest book, The Naked Darwinist, which provides a full account.

1 Minute Summary