Climate change could lead to humans growing webbed hands and feet and developing gills to adapt to living underwater, according to an academic. Dr Matthew Skinner, a paleoanthropologist, believes humans would become fishlike to colonise aquatic communities, or ‘water worlds’, if sea levels rise.
To adapt to underwater foraging for food, colonists would develop artificial gills to extract oxygen from the sea to allow them to breath, and grow a transparent eyelid to see underwater, said Dr Skinner. The reliance on gills would subsequently reduce the requirement for lung capacity and colonists rib cages would likely shrink over time as a result, he predicted.
The claims are made in Extant Season 2. The programme challenged University of Kent lecturer Dr Skinner to predict how humans would adapt to future habitat scenarios such as climate change and another Ice Age. If an asteroid hit Earth, moisture and dust would overwhelm the atmosphere and block out the sun, causing temperatures and the population to plummet, predicts the programme.
In such a scenario, our technological sophistication would drastically reduce due to a loss of raw materials and manufacturing possibilities, forecasts Dr Skinner. Our nose and face could swell in size to help cold air to be warmed when inhaled into the nasopharynx, the area behind the nose.
Dr Skinner predicts the lack of modern technology would mean physical strength became more important for survival, leading men to assert their physical dominance to attract woman, like gorillas do in the natural world. The programme also looks at how humans would adapt if depleting resources on earth force them to colonise the planets and live in closed environments.
Dr Skinner predicts evolutionary changes to the human body would take place, including the development of ‘opposable’ big toes that could be moved like thumbs, to allow us to grip with our feet in weightless environments. He said: “No matter what future scenario we find ourselves in, be it a ‘water world’, ice age or indeed that of colonising another planet, the human race will strive to avoid extinction – ultimately, it’s a fight for survival.”