Renato Bender and Nicole Oser


The arguments of the Aquatic Ape Theory (AAT) and the so called Savannah Theories (ST) can only be understood through an objective analysis of the history of this two groups of theories. Bender (1999) criticises the statement which declares Raymond Dart „among the first to suggest a transition from an arboreal to a savannah nice" (Roede et al. 1991, XVII).

Ideas about a transition from forests to open spaces in connection with the emergence of man can be found already in Lamarck’s Philosophie Zoologique in 1809. Indeed, most of the main elements of the "ST" are present in the palaeoanthropological literature since the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

Essential in this observation is the fact, that the most relevant arguments of the "ST" were formulated before the discovery of the first fossils of Australopithecines. Raymond Dart is therefore definitely not one of the first authors of a Savannah Theory, but the first one, which used the arguments of this theoretical models in connection with fossils of early hominids (Bender 1999, chap. 3). Another important observation concerning the scientific value of the AAT and the "ST" is represented by the biological concept of convergence. As stressed by Bender (1999) and Oser (in preparation), the search for convergences with other species is one of the most important tools used by biologists in their attempts to reconstruct some phases of the phylogeny of a living system. In the reconstruction of human evolution, this method is neglected, because in the "ST" there is little possibility to find convergences between man and savannah animals. (But there are some examples of such attempts in connection with Savannah Theories, for instance in Read’s analogies between early hominids and wolves [Read 1925] and in Jolly’s analogies between Thereopithecus and hominids [Jolly 1970]).

The AAT, in contrast to this, is the only model of human evolution which supports its arguments through a broad and objective use of the concept of convergence. This fact supplies other scientists with comprehensible informations, with enable them to test the premises of this hypothesis.



 Bender, Renato (1999): Die evolutionsbiologische Grundlage des menschlichen Schwimmens, Tauchens und Watens: Konvergenzforschung in den Terrestrisierungshypothesen und in der Aquatic Ape Theory (master thesis). – Institut für Sport und Sportwissenschaft, Universtity of Bern.

 Jolly, C.J., 1970: The Seed-Eaters: A New Model of Hominid Differentiation based on a Baboon Analogy. - Man 5, 5-26.

 Lamarck, J.-B. de, 1809: Philosophie zoologique, ou exposition des considérations relatives à l' histoire naturelle des animaux. - Paris.

 Oser, N., (in preparation): Westenhöfers Aquatile Hypothese: Die Geschichte einer neuen Theorie der menschlichen Evolution. - Medizinhistorische Dissertation. –Medizinhistorisches Institut, University of Bern.

 Read, C., 1920: The Origin of Man and of his Superstitions. - Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

 Roede, M.; Wind, J; Patrick, J.M. & Reynolds, V., 1991a (ed.): The Aquatic Ape: Fact or Fiction?: The First Scientifical Evaluation of a Controversial Theory of Human Evolution.- Souvenir Press, London.