Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Do Mermaids exist?

Being a Marine Science major, I spend way too much time watching ocean documentaries. If its aired on Discover Channel, Nat Geo, or Animal Planet within the past 15 years, I've watched it, repeatedly. Most have been very informative, but lately there have been some pretty ridiculous "documentaries" made on the unknown creatures of the sea. This one has to be, hands down, the worst every produced.

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This video clip was the start of the pseudo-documentary on the existence of mermaids. Now I would not advise you to watch the entire documentary, but there was a theory that was introduced within the bogus show that stuck with me.

The Aquatic Ape Theory, as presented by the documentary, states that early coastal hominids slowly evolved into the present day mermaid. They started out as the traditional hominid, standing on two legs and hunting around for food. However, they fished instead of collecting fruits or killing wild animals. So as a result, they developed the ability to hold their breathe for long periods of time, and the whole fin thing for swimming, obviously. The main point of it all was to say that as a species, hominids adapted to their environment in order to survive, and because these individuals were close to the shore, they developed ways to utilized the resources. The species just eventually split in two, causing two new species, Man and Mermaid. Speciation has been occurring for millions of years to every life form on the planet, so why think that humans are exempted from it? It made perfect sense, being that the world is covered roughly 70% with water, that forms of life could at any time transition into an aquatic organism. As a freshman first starting out in the field, I didn't see anything wrong with the theory, and I accepted it.

Now that I learned quite a bit about the ocean and evolution, I can see major flaws in the theory. The first one that should have been obvious back when I first saw this is the presentation of the theory itself in the documentary. The original theory, made by Sir Alister Hardy (marine biologist, specializing in PLANKTON), hypothesized that during the evolution of humans, our ancestors went through an "aquatic stage", developing features for life in the ocean before coming back onto land, and morphing into our present day forms. Apparently, the principle of convergent evolution supports the findings of certain characteristics in our anatomy and physiology today are a result of our aquatic phase. That's cool and all, but that doesn't follow the same evolutionary path that I had first heard about. And though Sir Hardy was probably a brilliant man in his field, plankton are simply organisms that are not free moving, that is they cannot swim against a current. Pretty sure mermaids swim, or else they would just be floating aimlessly around the world. And that brings me to my next point. Why haven't I seen one on any of my trips to the beach? You could argue that they don't live around our way, which I would accept. But what about everywhere else in the world? Everyone has a phone, and its impossible to walk 5 minutes without encountering someone taking a "selfie". So why aren't there any legit photos of a mermaid? In order for a species to be successful, there needs to be a certain amount of individuals present to reproduce successfully. Too little, and the risks associated with inbreeding will wipe out the entire species. If they did evolve the same time that we did, I would expect that their numbers are plentiful to have been successful all this time. And the likelihood of not one single mermaid ever washing up on shore, or being caught in a fishing net, or documented with all these research vessels out exploring the ocean, is highly unlikely.

The documentary showed multiple video footage and photos of this creature, but they didn't make any sense. The video posted shows two American boys finding this creature. But there is also a video of two men in Israel finding a mermaid sunbathing on the rocks. And there is plenty of footage that shows deep sea submersibles recording these creatures. Geographically, it doesn't make sense. This creature cannot be exist in both shallow coasts and out in the open ocean, in two different oceans. There has to be some level of environmental sensitivities, meaning that they need to be in an area with preferred salinity, pH level, temperature, water pressure, etc. Its impossible that their bodies have adapted to withstand every condition the environment that they have been found in. Which brings me to how anatomically wrong they are. They have a very slender body, yet they live in the deep? Do you know how cold it is in the the depths that they were supposedly filmed? Yet, they have no blubber or method of insulation. And the dolphin-like characteristics, like the echo-location for hunting and the tail? Where did that come from? And, not to be inappropriate, but there is no way they are able to reproduce effectively. And the list goes on about how they would never survive in the ocean.

In the end, the aquatic ape theory was an amazing discovery I thought I came across. But there is just too many flaws in the theory, and documentary, that cannot be overlooked. This long rant is only the beginning of it. I'm not gonna lie, I still do have hope it'll turn out to be real. I want someone to come along and provide actual proof that I wasn't crazy for ever believing this. But I highly doubt that will ever happen.

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