Oceans of Opportunity

Mermaids | in Context

'A New Life in the Sea' by Michael LombardiA friend recently reminded me (Trove Boutiques) of just one reason our hearts and minds turn to the sea, particularly at a very young age. This one element, often considered fantasy in our adult years, but quite possibly representing a critical missing link in human evolution – mermaids.

The first known mermaid stories appeared in Assyria around 1000 BC, where the goddess Atargatis loved a mortal shepherd and unintentionally killed him. Ashamed, she jumped into a lake to take the form of a fish, but the waters would not conceal her divine beauty. Thereafter, she took the form of a mermaid—human above the waist, fish below—though the earliest representations of Atargatis showed her as a fish with a human head and legs, similar to the Babylonian Era (from Wikipedia).

The mermaid story can be traced through Greek mythology, but also has ties in the context of the aquatic ape hypothesis (AAH). The aquatic ape hypothesis is an explanation of human evolution theorizing that ancestors of modern humans spent a period of time adapting to life in a partially aquatic environment. The theory is based on differences between humans and great apes, and apparent similarities between humans and some aquatic mammals. The theory was first proposed in 1942 with its greatest proponent being the writer Elaine Morgan, who dedicated more than 40 years to investigating the subject.

It is generally accepted that both H. neanderthalensis and early H. sapiens were better suited to aquatic environments than other great apes, which may be reason to theorize that earlier pre-humans, or a long extinct and now lost sub-culture of early humans underwent some adaptations due to an intricate interaction with water. As I’ve discussed previously on this Blog, there are very likely traces of what we would consider ‘superhuman’ capabilities embedded in our DNA today, that are remnants of extinct evolutionary pathways.

There may be no coincidence that the AAH hypothesis evolved during a period where venturing underwater was popularized by Cousteau and others. In fact, Cousteau himself promoted an idea of Homo aquaticus, a highly water-adapted human ancestor, or possibly a new direction for human evolution. Again, living on our ‘Blue Planet’, it would make good sense for us to be on a path towards maximizing this planet’s resources, which would require a greater synergy with the oceans.

Back to mermaids – well, in all my several thousands of hours underwater, I haven’t seen one. But, as a theory, an ideology, or hope for a better future here on Earth…I am as much a believer now as I was as a little kid. Share 

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