1st Edition

The Waterside Ape An Alternative Account of Human Evolution

By Peter H. Rhys Evans Copyright 2019
    250 Pages 50 Color & 8 B/W Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    250 Pages 50 Color & 8 B/W Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    250 Pages 50 Color & 8 B/W Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    Why are humans so fond of water?

    Why is our skin colour so variable?

    Why aren’t we hairy like our close ape relatives?

    A savannah scenario of human evolution has been widely accepted primarily due to fossil evidence; and fossils do not offer insight into these questions. Other alternative evolutionary scenarios might, but these models have been rejected. This book explores a controversial idea – that human evolution was intimately associated with watery habitats as much or more than typical savannahs. Written from a medical point of view, the author presents evidence supporting a credible alternative explanation for how humans diverged from our primate ancestors. Anatomical and physiological evidence offer insight into hairlessness, different coloured skin, subcutaneous fat, large brains, a marine-type kidney, a unique heat regulation system and speech. This evidence suggests that humans may well have evolved, not just as savannah mammals, as is generally believed, but with more affinity for aquatic habitats – rivers, streams, lakes and coasts.

    Key Features:

  • Presents the evidence for a close association between riparian habitats and the origin of humans
  • Reviews the "savannah ape" hypothesis for human origins
  • Describes various anatomical adaptations that are associated with hypotheses of human evolution
  • Explores characteristics from the head and neck such as skull and sinus structures, the larynx and ear structures and functions

  • Foreword by Gareth Morgan.

    Chapter 1 Theories of Human Evolution.

    Chapter 2 The Aquatic Debate.

    Chapter 3 Our Genetic Heritage.

    Chapter 4 Our Early Ancestors.

    Chapter 5 The Neanderthals and Their Demise.

    Chapter 6 The Waterside Ape – Why Are We So Different?

    Chapter 7 The Naked Ape.

    Chapter 8 Why We Lost Our Costs: The Early Hominin Tailors.

    Chapter 9 Evolutionary Adaptations in the Human Skull and Sinuses.

    Chapter 10 Human Skull Buoyancy and the Diving Reflex.

    Chapter 11 Surfer’s Ear.

    Chapter 12 Evolution of the Human Brain.

    Chapter 13 Food for Thought and the Cognitive Revolution.

    Chapter 14 The Human Larynx and Evolution of Voice.

    Chapter 15 Obstetric and Neonatal Considerations.

    Chapter 16 Marine Adaptations in the Human Kidney.

    Chapter 17 Scars of Evolution.

    Chapter 18 We Are What We Eat.

    Chapter 19 An Incredible Journey.



    Peter Rhys Evans was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham and the Institute of Cancer Research. He was also the Chief of the Department of ENT/Head and Neck Surgery. He has authored or co-authored over 200 scietific publications including five books. His award winning book Principles and Practice of Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology , 2nd edition, was published in 2009. He served as a Sub-Editor for the Journal of Laryngology and Otology for nearly a decade.

    "In my view, this is a totally incontrovertible demonstration that our view of the paleo history of humanity has been quite misguided.  So, to me, this is a very, very important book. You will find at least two (arguments) which are, to my mind, conclusive. One is to do with exostoses which develop as bulging growths in the ear canal, which occur amongst people today who spend a lot of time diving – extraordinary – and they can be discovered in the skulls in the period that we are talking about – early human skulls. Another extraordinary revelation in Peter’s book, which is also new, is that human babies, when they are born, are covered in a membrane called the vernix. It is a very strange thing – nobody quite understands why. There is no other primate that we know has a vernix. Peter and his co-workers have discovered that there is another creature which has a vernix – seals. What is more, the chemistry, the biochemistry, the molecule which is responsible and the gene which is responsible for producing a vernix, is identical."                                       

    Sir David Attenborough


    "Congratulations on your new book. The shoreline and riverbank are fertile sources of small animal life, as any exploratory schoolboy knows, and the creatures living there are comparatively simple to catch.  It does look as if our species went through a temporary water-loving phase, and spent a great deal of its time fishing around beneath the surface.  With this as an encouragement, the Aquatic Theory sees early man becoming more and more engrossed in his dabblings and divings, living in tribal groups close to the water’s edge and slowly adapting to this new pattern of living. So, I approve of your title The Waterside Ape. In 1977, Desmond Morris wrote: "Hopefully, future fossil-hunters will unearth some evidence to resolve this question. All we need now is some hard, tangible evidence to clinch the idea"."

    Desmond Morris, Author of The Naked Ape


    "I found this a fascinating book. We have a very thought provoking, if surprisingly controversial, theory, to which an ENT expert has obviously been able to make a major contribution It shows how much can be learnt from comparative anatomy and is of special interest to an ENT readership. I thought it presented very convincing evidence for a theory that the anthropologists should address with a better counterargument than presently offered".

    Liam M Flood FRCS, Editor, Journal of Laryngology and Otology


    "The waterside theory of homo evolution has been around for a long time and more and more fossil evidence is being unearthed constantly to support the already copious amounts of evidence from comparative biology. This book sheds light on both the existing evidence and new evidence that has come to light. Books like this should be taught in schools and colleges as it explains so much about our species. The author clearly knows his subject and writes in a way that is both comprehensible and interesting to the layman and full of scientific insight to academics. He picks up where Elaine Morgan left off and continues to challenge the head in the sand scientists who refuse to even consider this topic"

    Francesca Mansfield, Founder/Director, Odyssey Sailing


    "This book adds the latest information to the growing body of evidence that Homo sapiens had a period in its evolutionary history where water played an important part. This explains why modern humans have characteristics that do not align with other terrestrial mammals and in particular any other of the primate apes. This idea was first proposed by the eminent marine biologist Sir Alister Hardy in 1964. It was not well received by the biological establishment at that time. It was subsequently taken up by Elaine Morgan in her first book The Descent of Woman. She wrote several more books as updates on the theory. It addresses the questions of why we are bipedal, naked (nearly), can hold our breath for extended periods, have subcutaneous fat, a very large brain to bodyweight ratio, have speech as the consequence of a descended larynx, etc, etc.

    The zoological establishment have resisted this theory for nearly sixty years but there are signs of light dawning amongst the younger fraternity without the prejudice and bias of the conventional view that modern humans evolved on the African savannah. As a retired scientist, I can tell you that prejudice blights my discipline as it does the rest of humanity; but I would urge you all to remember the words of Max Planck - a nuclear physicist who had trouble with his establishment. He said: "Scientists never change their minds but eventually, they die!"

    Gray Mage, Retired Scientist,

    "Well written and referenced, fairly balanced although always returning to the interesting underlying hypothesis that extended time in waterside environments near the Rift Valley of Africa selected for hominids with key adaptive features that helped the progression toward modern Homo sapiens. Artificial selection within populations, which also seems plausible, and similarly, the elimination of other tribe-equivalents, are not discussed. The book persuades me to read recent work by the master of human evolution, Desmond Morris."

    Gerald McLaughlin

    "Rhys-Evans provides an up-to-date account of all the paleontological, environmental and medical evidence for the aquatic ape hypothesis. The information is interesting, makes use of well-referenced scientific articles, and applies logic where gaps need to be filled in. A variety of human "attributes" are compared with similar attributes in terrestrial, semi-aquatic and aquatic animals. Any speculation on the author's part is noted as such. The information is presented in a straight-forward manner, with the use of the correct technical terms for anatomical organs/structures, which may require some effort on the part of non-medical readers. Illustrations are provided where relevant. The information contained in this book is fascinating and really should be read by anyone even vaguely interested in human evolution." 

    Jill Schroeder