Sunday, May 06, 2012

Of mermaids and aquatic apes

Animal Planet visits mermaids

Animal Planet on 5/27 is doing basically a science fiction program on the premise that we've found the body of a mermaid.  It might be fun: I never saw their dragon show on the similar premise, but I know some people thought it was fun, while other thought it was real.  This will no doubt get the same mixed reception.

The special also will present (uncritically, I suspect) the Aquatic Ape Theory that humans went through an aquatic phase of evolution.  Now it's not totally out of the question that primates COULD have spawned an aquatic offshoot, and it's fun to speculate on.  But presenting the AAT seriously as a scientific theory is... umm, I think the technical Latin word is "crap."  Humans are terribly maladapted for aquatic existence:  marine predators would have viewed us as a free buffet.  To mention just one objection, the radically different salt excretion system proposed would have required a line of development unlike all other mammals - and then disappeared and saw us go back to normal kidneys.  Right....

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