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Amphibian Men and Mermaids

"The ancestors of human beings never lived on trees. They came out of the water and lived amphibiously": A German biologist throws over traditional theories – supported by Austria.

Baboon with penis and pineapple
Picture by T. Micke

Compared to such a small, pudgy human baby, newborn gorillas, orangutans and chimps look like lean dwarf doters. Why? Because the small homunculus would need a fat insulating layer, in order to remain well warmed during the constant water contact of their food searching mothers, says Professor Carsten Niemitz, human biologist at the free University of Berlin. This baby fat is unique under the apes and also in various other aspects the human being is not at all akin to its biologically next relatives, the chimps as well as the herbivorous forest-dwelling animal gorilla and orangutan. It thus probably developed a completely different way from a certain time on (before circa six to ten million years).

According to Carsten Niemitz he has an "amphibious theory" which he recently published in a book ("the secret of the upright walk" Beck-Verlag) It says that the human being and its ancestor did not climb down the tree evolutionary, but did live for various reasons at and in the water, withdrew only in dangerous situations and perhaps for sleeping purposes on the trees. The in the animal realm one of a kind upright walk of man, about which the anthropologists actually ponder until today to get to the ground of its cause, comes not from the need to carry, to work on or throw things with the "forelegs". Man can thereby wade better in the riparian close water, in order to take protein-yielding food which is extra valuable for the development of his brain.

Carsten Niemitz loves to shock or perhaps more suitably for a lecturing university professor, to awake-shake humans: "If one asks me, whether humans originate from the ape, I always say: "No, humans do not originate from the ape. They are one!"

Similarly tight he describes the details of his "amphibious theory" in the interview and is not shy explaining, although "research revolutionaries" like Dr. Elaine Morgan have been smiled at by many colleagues regarding their aquatic theory in the 60's. Niemitz: "If a chimpanzee does a difficult activity with his hands, then he sits down on his back, exactly like a human, if he pulls a thread through a needle eye. And: Once a furious gorilla male pelted me carefully targeted with earth. So for me, both cases are no explanation for two-legged man."

In fact the upright walk is unique in the evolution history. It is actually not comparable with the waddle of penguins, the "bag hopping" from Kangaroos or the walk of the tail-supported dinosaurs, an apparently completely kooky development: Anyhow one stands and walks more surely and usually also faster on four legs. The vital organs are better protected and if one of four legs is misplaced during a fight, one is still halfway mobile on three legs. Besides learning to walk on two feet takes its time and bipeds must therefore longer be carried around by the mother, which makes both of them more prone to attacks.

Ethiopian ape family
Picture by T. Micke

Thus there must be a really good reason, why humans placed themselves on the hind feet. In the far plains of the Savannah, it was also more easily to make a living on four legs, than on two. Perhaps being two-legged, in order to be able to better see robbers and prey over high grass away? Yet one has to be as fast as possible to come back on all four in order to not be discovered.

Niemitz: "There were many incentives for humans to aim for a life at the water. The two most important: Around the year the food offer there is approximately larger and steadier. And: The food, which is to be scavenged in the riparian zones, is more protein rich. That people in the primeval times could have covered their protein need by large game hunt, I consider a rumor. These hunts were dangerous, did not bring enough yield and would have too strongly decimated men. The contribution of the collecting and fishing women to the daily food-yield is very much underestimated. Probably because of the clichéd picture of javelin and stone-throwing man hordes, which we imagine when we think of the Stone Age Society... " Niemitz: "At the water the price performance ratio was simply better for versatile human beings. And thus man, could in-wade upright with his comparatively large feet on the soft soil far into the water, the yield became even higher."

Surprising support for his interesting theory Professor Carsten Niemitz got past week by the Viennese physiologist Dr. Peter Ahnelt, who compared the structure of the eyes of humans, gorilla, chimpanzee, orangutan and at the water living macaques. In contrary to other kinds of apes living at the soil, humans retained themselves to have an even spatial field of view. Dr. Ahnelt: "Possibly that was more useful for an upright, foresighted walk and the two-legged collecting and fishing in the shallow water."

 Sorry, it's just an alligator......
Picture by T. Micke

Professor Carsten Niemitz, who studied medicine and took some courses in mathematics beside biology, is concerned in his book "the secret of the upright walk" with all possible points of criticism at his theory of amphibious man: A researcher colleague means, his water theory would not function, because crocodiles would be a much larger threat for man than for example lions. Crocodiles have too much and radically decimated wading "frog manikins and mermaids" at rivers and lakes.

Niemitz counters: "Crocodiles leave, if one makes noise. It is only a hypothesis, but why is it that children are tremendously loud when playing in the water? Perhaps the driving out of crocodiles remained preserved for us up until the shouting in the open-air swimming pool. Each human being instinctively prefers clear water to muddily one either. Why? Clear water is not necessarily more cleanly for drinking than muddily one, however it is more safely for playing or fishing at a lakeshore."

Even if there is skepticism concerning the Niemitz amphibian idea, the human biologist shows anyway: That apparently secured knowledge should be occasionally analyzed, either. Even so "simple things" like the upright walk of man.

Can you explain for example, why a house with swimming pool or one at the lake belongs to the most in demand, what real estate agents have to offer? Professor Carsten Niemitz has an idea...

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© A report by Tobias Micke (01-05-04) – Contact