Thursday, July 11, 2019

Humans could evolve webbed feet if sea levels rise, scientist claims

duck feet, human evolved

Dr Matthew Skinner claims humans could evolve to have webbed hands and feet and less body hair so they could move quickly through the water.

The perils of climate change are well known, but rising sea levels could also alter human evolution, scientists have claimed.

Rising sea levels could force communities to live in underwater or semi-aquatic towns which could change out physiology.

Dr Matthew Skinner, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Kent, claims that humans could evolve to have webbed hands and feet and less body hair so they could move quickly through the water.

duck feet, human evolved

Our eyes would even become more like cats, so we could see in the murky gloom of seas and rivers and our lungs would shrink as we became used to using artificial tanks to breathe underwater.

“Regular underwater foraging would lead to the evolution of longer fingers and toes which would then likely develop ‘webbed’ interconnecting skin to enable easier swimming,” said Dr Skinner.

“We may evolve a tapetum lucidum, an additional layer in the retina, like cat’s eyes, that would improve our vision in low light conditions such as underwater.

“Due to the cold environment of being submerged in water regularly, we would maintain a layer of ‘baby fat’ into adulthood as an insulator.”

duck feet, human evolved

Likewise colonising another planet like Mars would also have implications for the human body. Nasa has already said it wants to have Earth-independent habitations on the Red Planet by the 2030s but a weightless environment would change how bones grow, altering overall body shape and size.

A weaker gravitational pull would mean that legs would be used less to support body weight and would become shorter. An opposable big toe could also develop to allow greater dexterity in an weightless environment.

Due to a lack of natural predators, as well as the reduced need for physical exertion, our overall body size would reduce.

Humans may even follow a common evolutionary phenomenon called ‘island dwarfing’ which occurs in a number of mammals when there is low resource availability and few predators.

By Sarah Knapton,  The Telegraph

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