Mermaids: The Body Found: What Exactly is the 'Aquatic Ape Theory'?
By: Jodi Westrick
When we first premiered "Mermaids: The Body Found" back in May, I must admit I was curious about the aquatic ape teory mentioned in the documentary. I'm fascinated by many of the creatures featured on our cryptozoology page, watched 'Finding Bigfoot' regularly before joining the Animal Planet team, and am often guilty of getting lost in endless loops on Wikipedia and other sites while researching many of the creatures that are said to exist but have yet to be found.
When the opportunity came up to learn a bit more about this aquatic ape theory, I figured I'd share some of my findings with the rest of the world.
In "Mermaids," it's touched upon in the video below.
In 1960, Marine bioligist Alister Hardy explained the theory in a New Scientist article titled "Was man more aquatic in the past?," saying "My thesis is that a branch of this primitive ape-stock was forced by competition from life in the trees to feed on the sea-shores and to hunt for food, shell fish, sea-urchins etc., in the shallow waters off the coast. I suppose that they were forced into the water just as we have seen happen in so many other groups of terrestrial animals. I am imagining this happening in the warmer parts of the world, in the tropical seas where Man could stand being in the water for relatively long periods, that is, several hours at a stretch."
This theory, which has been rehashed over the years, offers explanations as to why humans lack fur, walk upright on two limbs, and the "encephalization" of the brain (a.k.a. - the proportion of brain mass compared to an animal's total body mass), which could have been caused by increased consumption of fatty acids found in fish.
While compelling, many anthropologists have discredited the theory. So, just how real or viable is it? Could mermaids have come to existence after some of our ape ancestors were forced into the sea?
Check out "Mermaids: The Body Found" when it re-airs Sunday Sept. 2 at 9PM E/P and decide for yourself.
Jodi Westrick is an Associate Interactive Producer for AnimalPlanet.com.