Re: The Aquatic Adaptation of the Human Ear

Phillip Bigelow (
5 Oct 1995 15:02:52 -0700 (JTHURB) writes:
>On page 72 of the March 1995 issue of National Geographic there is a photo
>of a 9,000-year-old scull exhibiting symptoms of "Americas' first known
>occupational disease; auditory exostosis, a thickening of bone in the ear
>canal caused by repeated exposure to cold water, probably a result of
>diving for shellfish."

>When I learned several years ago that I had auditory exostosis I was
>almost happy about it, because as an experienced diver and one of the
>earliest AAT supporters I felt that I had stumbled on to an item that was
>positive support for Hardy and Morgan.

Well, I hate to pour water over your "positive" support for the theory,
but the occurrence of auditory exostosis in humans is actually strong
evidence AGAINST the AAT theory.
Auditory exostosis is a *pathology*, it is not an evolutionary
adaptation. If humans were well-adapted for a cool-cold water environment,
then we would not show the pathology at all. The same logic applies to
another, more common cold-water pathology encountered by humans:
hypothermia. Both auditory exostosis and hypothermia in humans clearly show
we are not able to take cold water without exibiting these conditions.

>almost exclusively among divers; particularly, but not exclusively, to
>those diving in cold waters.

Elaine Morgain and her supporters hypothesize a *warm water* habitat for
their "aquatic" ape. They have to; if the waters were too cool, the small,
hairless ape would have to deal with the effects of hypothermia.
Auditory exostosis, as you are slowly begining to see, is an *occupational
disease*. It is the antithesis of an aquatic adaptation. In fact, the LACK
of auditory exostosis in humans would be a better case for your side. That
would be TRUE evolutionary adaptation...a genetically-inherited resistance
to cold-water bone deformities. But the opposite situation is seen.

Although I feel bad for that native American who developed the condition, it
tells us nothing about aquatic adaptations 5 m.y.a.