A mermaid or merperson is a legendary aquatic creature with the upper body of a human and the tail of a fish. Mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide, including the Near East, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Stories of Mermaids originated as early as humans began sailing around 3200 BCE, but may have much earlier roots. Mermaids have been the subject of numerous sightings and hoaxes, such as the feejee mermaid.
Columbus was sailing off the coast of Hispaniola in 1493. Columbus reported seeing three "female forms" which "rose high out of the water, but were not as beautiful as they are represented". The logbook of Blackbeard, an English pirate, records that he instructed his crew on several voyages to steer away from charted waters which he called "enchanted" for fear of merfolk or mermaids, which Blackbeard himself and members of his crew reported seeing. These sighting were often recounted and shared by sailors and pirates who believed that mermaids brought bad luck and would bewitch them into giving up their gold and dragging them to the bottom of the sea. Two sightings were reported in Canada near Vancouver and Victoria, one from sometime between 1870 and 1890 and the other from 1967. In August 2009, after dozens of people reported seeing a mermaid leaping out of the water and doing aerial tricks, the Israeli coastal town of Kiryat Yam offered a $1 million dollar award for proof of its existence. But you'd have to get evidence that is 200% real proof. (That award is going to be on that wall for a 100 years).
Aquatic Ape Hypothesis
The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis (AAH), often also referred to as Aquatic Ape Theory (AAT), is a proposal that the evolutionary ancestors of modern humans spent a period of time adapting to a semiaquatic existence. The hypothesis was first proposed by German pathologist Max Westenhöfer in 1942 and then independently by English marine biologist Alister Hardy in 1960; however, the arguments of both men failed to achieve significant popular notice. After Hardy, the theory's most prominent proponent was former television documentary writer Elaine Morgan, who wrote a series of books on the topic, and she achieved a larger awareness of the theory after her first work appeared in 1972.
The German pathologist Max Westenhöfer (1871–1957) can be said to have worded an early version of AAH, which he labeled "the Aquatile Man" (German: aquatile Mensch), which he described in several publications during the 1930s and 1940s.
Evidence and Claims
- Hairlessness: Morgan claimed the relatively hairless skin of humans was due to comparable adaptations in aquatic mammals and land-dwelling mammals that have aquatic ancestors as well as those that currently spend much of their time in wet conditions, and what body hair humans do have follows the flow of water over the body. However, humans vary strongly in the amount and distribution of body hair and comparably sized mammals adapted to semi-aquatic lifestyles actually have dense, insulating fur or large, barrel-shaped bodies that retain heat well in water. Hairlessness is only an advantage for aquatic mammals such as whales and dolphins that have spent millions of years adapting to aquatic lifestyles involving diving, fast swimming and migration over long distances; such animals show considerable skeletal and cardiovascular adaptations to an aquatic environment.
- Descended larynx: The human larynx is situated in the throat rather than the nasal cavity, a feature that is shared by some aquatic animals who use it to close off the trachea while diving; it also facilitates taking large breaths of air upon surfacing.
- Brain Complexity and Chemicals Required: The size and complexity of the brain of humans, compared to its physical size and other factors, is considered the highest in the animal kingdom, followed by whales, in particular dolphins, other great apes and certain species of squid. It has been argued that aquatic mammals more often develop large brains, and that particularly grassland mammals conversely stagnate in brain development. Morgan and other authors have suggested that the encephalization of the human brain was a response to increased consumption of seafood. A team lead by Canadian biochemist Stephen Cunnane has argued that both developing and maintaining a healthy human brain is heavily dependent on a key series of micronutrients and macronutrients, most especially docosahexaenoic acid, DHA (an Omega 3 fatty acid) and iodine-ions. Both these have proven extremely rare in purely terrestrial food groups (including grasses, fruits, vegetables and husbandry meats), but are conversely abundant in fish, shellfish and other sea foods, particularly from saline and alkaline waters.
- Babies can Swim Before Walking: It is pointed out, that vernix caseosa, a cheesy varnish coating the skin of newborn babies, apart from humans so far has only been observed on the pups of a few aquatic mammals, such as harbour seals. It is pointed out that infant humans cannot walk upright until as much as one year of age, completely unknown among simian offspring. Morgan also claimed that newborns are adequately suited to swim along with their mother, while being able to hold their breath upwards of 45 seconds.
- Protruding Nose and Bathing: The protruding human nose (which sticks outwards unlike most apes) is adapted to keep splashes out of nasal cavities, seen in the semiaquatic proboscis monkey or semiaquatic tapirs as possible convergences.
The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis lacks fossil evidence to support its claims. It is regarded as a simplified version of evolution (evolution is usually more complex). Many humans also fear swimming, a fear known as aquaphobia. For the nutrients that are abundant in sea food and needed in the human brain, scavenging the brains of other land animals could provide these to some extent. Other terrestrial mammals, such as the red deer, have a permanently descended larynx, caused by vocalization, the most likely cause of this adaptation in humans.
Scientists claim that mermaids have to be a myth, because it is impossible for a creature to be half woman and half fish. A woman is a mammal, which is a very different order of species from a cold-blooded fish. You cannot have both types of creature in the same body of course. To explain mermaid sightings, they claim that the mermaid myth comes from sailors who have mistaken sea-cow, (dugong and manatees) for mermaids. They are so sure of this explanation, that the scientific name for sea-cows is sirenia, (siren is an Ancient Greek word for mermaids).
The problem with this dismissive theory is that sea cows only live in tropical waters. It doesn't explain mermaid sighting in the colder waters of Europe, where there are no sea cows and where most mermaid stories arise. Scientists try to account for this by claiming European sailors and fishermen have mistaken seals for mermaids.
Modern sightings are often dolphins or seals.
Some cases of Merpeople throughout history could actually be cases of Sirenomelia. Three cases of sirenomelia in humans are known to have survived infancy: Tiffany Yorks, Shiloh Pepin, and Milagros Cerrón.
- Night Vision - mermaids can see in the dark.
- Super Speed - mermaids can reach speeds of 35 and 40 mpr.
- Shape-shifting - a mermaid can shape-shift their tail to feet.
"Mermaid Report Room". UnnaturalHistoryMuseum.org. Lumberwoods, Unnatural History Museum
"Becoming Mermaids" American Museum of Natural History.