Re: Savanna: a slow demise

Phil Nicholls (
Wed, 20 Sep 1995 06:06:59 GMT

Elaine Morgan <> wrote:

>JDMoore informs me that the savanna theory was already defunct in
>the nineteen sixties, before I ever wrote a word about evolution
>and I was too thick to realise it. Just a sprinkling of quotations:

>1972. "Man made this change" (bipedalism) "as he adapted to a hunting
>life on the hot savanna" ("The Imperial Animal," by Tiger and Fox)

>1984 "The early hominids are thought to have inhabited the African
>equatorial savannhs" (Peter Wheeler, J. Hum. Evol, 13, 91-98)

>1985 "The descendants of a 40-50 kilogram ape ...were too heavy to
>climb bushes when the forest gave way to savannah"" (Richard Leakey, in
>the Sunday Times, nov. 17th)

>1986. "The current explanation suggests that bipedalism evolved when
>the gathering of plants for food became necessary in a drier savannah
>habitat". (A.R, Sinclair and Mary Leakey, Nature, Nov. 27th)

>1991. "Bipedalism could have evolved as a response to the physiological
>rather than behavioural challenges presented by this new environment. A
>major problem on the open equatorial savannah is hyperthermia..." (Peter
>Wheeler, J. Hum. Evol, 21. 117-36)

>1993. "The first savannah apes are likely to have been generalists of a
>similar type to modern chimps"......"Resilience and abundance - these
>were the likely attributes of the first apes that moved into the
>savannahs". "Self-made Man" by Jonathan Kingdon.

>1993. "Hunt exposes the fallacy of assuming that hominid bipedalism
>was an adaptation to a savannah environment". Nature, June 17th, p 588.

>The savannah Theory is dead, but it did not end in the sixties, and it
>was an unconscionable time a-dying. Even up to less than a year ago,
>though the song may have ended, the melody lingered on.


The "savannah theory" is a straw man of your own construction. There
is no savanna theory. There are a number of hypotheses about human
evolution and the savanna figures into most of them because the best
available evidence shows that early hominids occupied savanna
habitates and because at the time hominids appear in the fossil record
savanna biomes were replacing forest biomes.

Phil Nicholls
"To ask a question you must first know most of the answer"
-Robert Sheckley