Trying to debunk the aquatic ape hypothesis… or not. Or the day I tried to defend David Attenborough.

The so-called aquatic ape hypothesis is one that has attracted a lot of attention and much derision. In 1960, British marine biologist Alistair Hardy posited the idea that humans might once have had an aquatic phase (or more accurately a semi-aquatic phases, spending some time in a watery habitat but a significant amount of time on land). This was picked up highlighted in popular zoologist Desmond Morris’s book The Naked Ape . However, Elaine Morgan was one of the the hypothesis’ main promoters, writing a book called The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis . There have been several debunkers of the hypothesis including Southern Fried Sciences’ own David Shiffman although Jim Moore’s website is probably one of the most comprehensive debunking sites for the hypothesis . Today Alice Roberts and Mark Maslin posted a critique of the aquatic ape hypothesis, mostly in response to a new BBC radio series The Waterside Ape which is being presented by David Attenborough.

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The great #Mermaids Storify

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This week, Animal Planet aired “Mermaids: The New Evidence”  the second fake documentary in their series about mermaids.  After complaining about the ridiculous show and the associated devastating effects on science literacy*, we decided to watch the re-air together and live-tweet it. The goal was to get real scientific information into the twitter conversation associated with the show. The Storify of our contributions to the discussion is below.

* Lots of people think that the admittedly fake documentary is real. Search the twitter hashtag #Mermaids and you’ll see literally hundreds of examples of this. These are not included in the Storify in the interest of not being cruel to strangers.

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Mock the Doc: Watch both fake Mermaids documentaries tonight and mock them on twitter with us!

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Pictured: Not real. Drawn by  Vilhelm Pedersen, via WikiMedia Commons

Pictured: Not real. Drawn by Vilhelm Pedersen, via WikiMedia Commons

Tonight from 8-11 P.M. EST, Animal Planet is re-airing both fake mermaid documentaries, “Mermaids: The Body Found” and “Mermaids: the New Evidence”. We’re going to watch them. We’re going to live-tweet our thoughts using the show’s existing hashtag, #Mermaids. We’re going to systematically point out everything factually incorrect about mermaids (or anything having to do with the ocean) that they say, and generally mock the fake documentaries mercilessly. It’s going to be a good time, and you should participate. I’ll Storify my favorite contributions.