Presented by Sir David Attenborough Scars of Evolution is a two part series looking at the history and current status of the 'aquatic ape hypothesis' (AAH), first proposed 45 years ago by Sir Alister Hardy, then elaborated and developed by Elaine Morgan and others.
The hypothesis proposes that the physical characteristics that distinguish us from our nearest cousin apes - standing and moving bipedally, being naked and sweaty, our swimming and diving abilities, fat babies, big brains and language - all of these and others are best explained as adaptations to a prolonged period of our evolutionary history being spent in and around the seashore and lake margins, not on the hot dry savannah or in the forest with the other apes. The programmes explore the varieties of response to the theory, from when it was first proposed to the present day. Why it is seen by many as a very provoking idea and at the accumulating evidence of recent years that seems to be tipping the mainstream towards assimilating many of the AAH proposals. Programme two ends with dramatic new biological evidence suggesting that water-birthing was a very early human evolutionary adaptation.
The series starts by looking at the history of the AAH and other competing theories of human origins - and at the prevailing ideas about early human evolution in 1960 when Hardy first raised the tentative question: Was man more aquatic in the past? Programme one considers Raymond Dart's Taung Child discovery and the ensuing savannah theory of human origins, as popularised by Robert Ardrey and Desmond Morris; the reaction to Hardy's radical alternative and to Elaine Morgan's bestseller: Descent of Woman.
The second programme looks at the evidence that has accumulated in the last 5 - 10 years which seems to be driving the anthropological herd inexorably down to the water's edge. It includes reports on brain evolution, highlighting the essential fatty acids and nutrients that can only be sourced in the marine food chain; the global coastal migrations of early hominids, including major water crossings 1 million years ago; diving response and voluntary breath-control as semi-aquatic pre-adaptation for speech and some new and intriguing research findings that seem to indicate that water-births may be a very ancient human adaptation indeed.