The AAT/H characteristics list

If you've surfed the web for AAT/H info, or read a news story about it, you've seen the info from the comparative list in the AAT/H leaflet. This was apparently first written up to be given out at talks by Elaine Morgan, and her grandson posted it on his site soon after. I assume it was written by Elaine Morgan. I see that AAT/H proponent Algis Kuliukas has disputed the origin of this leaflet ("The authority of this leaflet has to be questioned from the start"); Morgan's grandson referred to it as "the leaflet printed by Accent of Swansea for Elaine Morgan". (Perhaps Kuliukas assumes Morgan's grandson was lying, or perhaps he assumes Morgan's printer (Accent ADC of Swansea) just made up all those claims on their own.)

My site deals with these characteristics on the "AAT/H claims and the facts" page, but since this handout has been and continues to be the basis for much AAT/H discussion, I've put the original list here along with an annotated copy, which lists the actual facts behind the leaflet's false "facts".


The AAT/H leaflet list

 

Characteristics

Humans

Apes

Savannah

Aquatics
Habitual Bipedalism Yes      
Loss of body hair Yes   Yes Yes
Skin-bonded fat deposits Yes     Yes
Ventro-ventral copulation Yes Yes   Yes
Dimunition of apocrine glands Yes     Yes
Hymen Yes     Yes
Enlarged sebaceous glands Yes     Yes
Psychic tears Yes     Yes
Loss of vibrissae Yes     Yes
Volitional breath control Yes     Yes
Eccrine thermoregulation Yes     Yes
Descended larynx Yes     Yes
 
The Aquatic phase took place more than 5 million years ago. Since then, Homo has had five million years to re-adapt to terrestrial life. It is not surprising that the traces of aquatic adaptation have become partially obliterated and have gone unrecognized for so long. But the traces are still there as the table indicates.

The "Yes" in column 3 refers to the bonobo; in column 4 the rhinoceros and the elephant.


That's a pretty impressive list, judging from people's responses to it. And since it is true that paleoanthropological theories don't explain why this list's correlations between humans and "aquatics" exist, it's no wonder uninformed people think the AAT/H is at least as valid as those from more traditional sources. The problem comes when people become informed by other than AAT/H proponents. It turns out the "similarities" listed in the leaflet's list are bogus, so explaining why they exist is impossible -- they aren't real. However, as Darwin long ago noticed about false "facts", they keep showing up, again and again.

Notice in the headings of this list the use of the word "Savannah" instead of terrestrial or land-based; while the next heading is simply "Aquatics". The AAT/H proponent feels free to use any purported feature from any aquatic animal (no matter what their size, habitat, lifestyle, or length of time being aquatic) as evidence for their theory, while attempting to restrict the opposing theory to only a small subset of terrestrial mammals. This is the Logical Fallacy called "Special Pleading", which is a common AAT/H technique. Even doing this, they continually have to look to supposed similarities with aquatic mammals which have highly specialized aquatic features which they've developed over the course of tens of millions of years of intensive aquatic living. We're talking seals, sirenians (dugongs and manatees), and whales here; they are the mammals the list refers to in each of its categories (although even then the similarities aren't real). Seals have been aquatic for about 25 million years or so; sirenians and whales for perhaps 50; all are so specialized they are incapable of living a natural life which isn't aquatic (especially sirenians and whales).

Here's the list again, with a reality check added. For more info on these features, look through this site; there's a lot here and I'll be adding more info to the site as time goes on.


The AAT/H leaflet list...annotated

Does the AAT/H leaflet tell the real story? The right-hand column shows when the AAT/H claims are true, false, or simply wildly misleading.


Characteristics

Humans

Apes

Savannah

Aquatics

Reality
Habitual Bipedalism Yes       True: Although AAT/H proponents claim that an aquatic lifestyle forces an adaptation to bipedalism, even they have to admit there is no evidence for this claim. They also leave out the many mammals which do use occasional bipedalism, perhaps because it's common in many terrestrial mammals. The only mammals which typically use occasional bipedalism for all the reasons humans do -- locomotion, feeding, sentry and display behavior -- are terrestrial mammals, such as primates and kangaroos; no aquatic mammal uses bipedalism.
Loss of body hair Yes   Yes (rhinoceros and
elephant)
Yes Highly misleading: All the mammals mentioned have hair and skin characteristics radically different from humans'. And among aquatic mammals only cetaceans, sirenians, and the semi-aquatic hippopotamus; all are either very large sized and/or high-speed swimmers with highly specialized skin and which have been very specialized aquatic mammals for several tens of millions of years.
Skin-bonded fat deposits Yes     Yes Wrong: Our fat deposits are like other primates and very unlike fatty aquatic mammals, both in pattern and life history.
Ventro-ventral copulation Yes Yes (bonobo)   Yes Wrong: Also seen in orangs, black-handed spider monkeys, and occasionally in woolly spider monkeys and gorillas; and only some very specialized aquatic mammals which have been aquatic for several tens of millions of years.
Dimunition of apocrine glands Yes     Yes Wrong: Humans follow progression seen in great apes; and in aquatic mammals only in whales, very specialized aquatic mammals with highly specialized skin and which have been aquatic for several tens of millions of years.
Hymen Yes     Yes Wrong: Found in various terrestrial mammals, including lemurs, llamas, guinea pigs, hyenas, elephants, rats, horses, and some species of galago, as well as in aquatic mammals such as toothed whales, seals, and sirenia.
Enlarged sebaceous glands Yes     Yes Wrong: Only lemurs have sebaceous glands as large and numerous as humans'. The AAT/H claim apparently originally referred to a study which only compared the sebaceous glands of phocid (earless) seals to otarid (or earred) seals.
Psychic tears Yes     Yes Wrong: Proven in humans only; claimed in several aquatic and  terrestrial mammals.
Loss of vibrissae Yes     Yes Wrong: Humans follow progression of fewer vibrissae (sensory whiskers) seen in great apes; and in aquatic mammals seen only in some whales, very specialized aquatic mammals which have been aquatic for several tens of millions of years.
Volitional breath control Yes     Yes Wrong: Humans have greater control than other mammals but breath-holding is seen in other mammals, including many primates and in dogs.
Eccrine thermoregulation Yes     Yes Wrong: Humans and some primates only; not seen in any aquatic mammal.
Descended larynx Yes     Yes Wrong: Humans' larynx very different from aquatic mammals, both in structure and life history, and descended larynx found in various terrestrial animals, including chimps and various deer species.

Home
Feedback: E-mail me
Next