Evolution of Humans and Apes Orangutan and Gorilla Lumbar Vertebrae Antennapedia Early Tetrapod Amphibian Eryops
Gibbon Bipedal Walking1 GIbbon Bipedal Walking 2 Gibbon Bipedal Walking 3 Morotopithecus Lumbar Vertebra
History of Science in Evolutionary Biology
An Upright Ancestor for the Apes
Evo-Devo in Paleoanthropology
Evolution Biology Update
Science of Human Origins
Human Evolution and the Hox Genes
Lucy, Australopithecus and the Birth of Humanity
Dinosaur Origins
The Upright Ape: A New Origin of the Species

by Aaron G. Filler MD, PhD

with a foreword by

David Pilbeam

Dean of Harvard College & Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University

Aaron Filler, MD, PhD
Read the 5-star reviews

He...provides an excellent general outline of some of the history and historic trends in evolutionary thought while laying out detailed evidence to support his theory...his ideas come across clearly, and he puts forth a compelling argument.

Thought-provoking and bold."

-- Kirkus Discoveries

"The Upright Ape" is a thought provoking journey into, not only science and philosophy, but also how one thing does or does not change into something else.”

--  BookReview.com

“For a book with only 260 pages, Filler manages to pack an amazing amount of information into it. ... At the same time the book doesn't suffer in terms of readability because of that. ... This is a challenging and provocative book well worth reading.”

-- Posted by afarensis at scienceblogs.com


“A compelling and well-presented analysis of the story of life. With an in-depth examination of evolutionary pioneers and their influences on today's research, Dr. Aaron Filler presents a convincing theory of evolution that will educate, stimulate, and challenge our perceptions of the history of life. I highly recommend the book not only to science students, but to readers who enjoy engaging and well-researched books that inspire debate and reflection.”

--Tracy Roberts, GoArticles.com

Buy a signed copy of The Upright Ape with a free DVD of Hominiform Progression and a CD of paleoanthro images from UprightEvolution.com

Aaron G. Filler, MD, PhD

Links to More Than 35 Different Blogs Commenting on Dr. Filler's Upright Ape theory
Homeotic Evolution in the Mammalia - A Morphogenetic Basis for Human Origins - Published in PLOS ONE - October 10, 2007
Recent Media Reports on "The Upright Ape," "Homeotic Evolution" and "Evolution of Back Pain" in English, Spanish, Portugese and Romanian
Read the Universal Five Star Reviews of "The Upright Ape"
Media Page for Journalists - Downloads & Info - Did Apes Evolve From Humans?
View "Hominiform Progression" Video

A dramatic 25 minute video on the evolution of movement in the hominiforms - apes and humans. A baby siamang ape teaches himself to walk bipedally like his parents and humans show off their arm swinging. Chimp and Gorilla knuckle walking and orangutan four limbed clmbing as well as the future of human movement are covered.

Human Origins Revolutionized

An Upright Ancestor for the Apes

The discovery of an ancient fossil in Moroto, Uganda from 21 million years ago was the first sign of a major flaw in our models of human evolution. It is almost identical to a modern human lumbar vertebra.

But it was just one fossil against a world full of scientific opinion that humans, with their upright bipedal walking did not emerge until the chimpanzee-human split 6 million years ago.

Then fossils of another upright bipedal ape - Oreopithecus - were found. Then another - Pierolapithecus. And then Sahelanthropus.

First there was one. Now there are four upright bipedal species of apes before the chimp-human split.

Paleoanthropology as a field has not yet come to grips with the revolutionary implications. The first "human" was probably Morotopithecus and probably lived 21 million years ago. The existing apes have a human ancestor.

For fifty years we have defined the first humans by the acquisition of upright bipedal posture in creatures like Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) who had brains like other apes. However, it now appears that based on this definition human history must reach back to the Miocene of 21 million years ago.

Read Chapters 9 & 10 of "The Upright Ape"

History Philosophy and Science

A Shared Intellectual Stake in Human Origins

How did biological scientists explain similarity among animals before the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species? Remarkably, the leading theory was proposed by a poet - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - the famous 18th/19th century writer and author of Faust.

Goethe's ideas overturned Aristotle's reigning idea of a world populated by perfectly designed but entirely distinct creatures. Goethe proved that humans were in the same continuum as the other animals with his famous paper on the intermaxillary bone in the 1790's. Then he suggested that repeating fundamental elements could be identified - the leaf for plants and the body segment for animals - out of which any conceivable organism could be assembled. This was his proof of shared origins for the major types of life.

In his 6th edition, Darwin finally acknowledged Goethe's priority, but questioned his conclusions. Modern Hox genetics now shows that Goethe the poet was closer to the scientific truth than Darwin the zoologist.

We tend to assume that objective science must be widely separated from the realm of poetry and philosophy. However, what if a poet saw and understood the most basic truths in science when reductionist biologists took 200 years to be able to appreciate what he had seen and understood.

Read More in Chapter 2 of "The Upright Ape"

Evolutionary Biology

Evo-Devo and Mutationism

Can natural selection and Darwinian adaptation fully explain all of the major events in biological evolution? Since the 1870's leading scientists including William Bateson - the founder of modern genetics, and Stephen Jay Gould - the most widely read evolutionary theorist of the 20th century have argued that major sudden changes that do not involve the classic Darwinian mechanisms may also be important.

Now, modern Hox genetics shows some of the major events in the history of life involved what may be called non-Darwinian mechanisms. Two examples are the origin of the bilaterally symmetric bilaterians (including all the insects and vertebrates). The first bilaterian group did not gradually develop a left side under the pressure of natural selection over millions of years - this was an abrupt left/right mirror duplication.

We now understand that vertebrates emerged from invertebrates by a 180 degree flip of the body. This did not involve gradual change of one or two degrees at a time under adaptation pressure over millions of years, but was a sudden morphogenetic change.

Yet another non-Darwinian sudden change may have been responsible for the appearance of the first upright hominiform (human) 21 million years ago.

Read More in Chapter 7 of "The Upright Ape"

Molecular Biology & Genetics

Environmental Mechanism for Mutational Acceleration in the Cambrian Explosion

The term "Cambrian Explosion" refers to the sudden appearance of most of the modern phyla and classes of animals in the fossil record about 525 million years ago in the early part of the Cambrian geological epoch. The very existence of such an explosion has been questioned because there has been no obvious biological mechanism to explain the rapid generation of new body plans in multiple lineages and the equally puzzling cessation of this rapid mutational process.

This book demonstrates how Dr. Filler's work in cationic manipulation of the fidelity of DNA and RNA copying could finally explain this critical event in the evolution of animals. As a result of global warming at the beginning of the Cambrian era, massive changes in the metallic cations pouring into the oceans took place. The role of cationic changes in resetting the fidelity of DNA replication appears to finally explain the mass evolutionary acceleration that apparently took place during this time period.

The environmental changes that served as the on switch and the off switch for this astonishing event have now been identified in the relevant geologic strata.

Read More in Chapter 6 of "The Upright Ape"

Religion and Science in Creation & Evolution

Links Between the Evolution of Western Religion & the Roots of Modern Biological Thought

The literal Christian biblical creation story is just one of hundreds of creation myths known from the various cultures from around the globe. However, creation myths of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the Hindu Veda, and the ancient Sumerian and Semitic myths all track back to the powerful impact of the creation myth of Ancient Egypt. This myth has a fascinating intersection with modern biological thought because it implicates the assembly of biological segments in the origins of human society.

The central feature of much of Egyptian religion is the ressurection of Osiris. This was accomplished by his wife and sister Isis, along with the help of Thoth - inventor of medicine and science by the reassembly of his vertebral column. The resurrection of Osiris was commemorated in the middle east for 3,500 years by the annual erection of the djed cross that symbolized the spine of Osiris.

Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire developed his spinal theory of animal life and discovered the critical Polypterus - a fish that could walk on land and breathe air with its lungs - while exploring Egyptian ruins as part of the same Napoleonic expedition that discovered the Rosetta Stone.

Read More in Chapter 3 of "The Upright Ape"

Comparative Anatomy

The Role of the Spine in the Evolution of the Vertebrates

The most prominent repeating structure in the body of vertebrate animals is the spinal column with its embryological somites and adult vertebrae. The first proposals that vertebrae were critical to understanding the relationships among the anatomy of various kinds of animals were made independently by Goethe, Oken and Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in 1807.

Now the advent of Hox genetics has revealed that somites and vertebrae are organized by the same homeotic Hox genes that organize body segments in insects and other invertebrates. Nonetheless, very little attention has been paid by science to the evolutionary history and biology encoded in the spine.

The phenomenon of homology proposed by Sir Richard Owen in the 19th century relied on the elaboration of a vertebral archetype that was emraced by both theologists and biologists in the decades before Darwin.

Modern analysis of vertebrae has revealed a prominent role for homeotic and Pax/dorso- ventral reorganization of the vertebrae in the origin and diversification of dinosaurs, mammals and even in the origin of the upright bipedal human lineage.

Read in Chapters 5 & 7 of "The Upright Ape"

Related recent academic work from Dr. Filler:

Homeotic Evolution in the Mammalia: Diversification of Therian Axial Seriation and a Morphogenetic Basis for Human Origins: PLOS ONE (2007)

Evolution of Back Pain: Neurosurgical Focus (2007)

Humanian Model of Human Evolution: AAPA (2008)

Implications of Djed Spinal Symbol: Neurosurgical Focus (2007)

Axial Character Seriation in Mammals (1986/2007)

Molecular evidence for environmental trigger of mass evolutionary acceleration: An experimental model for the Cambrian explosion (2007).

Recent Blog Posts:

A Human Ancestor for the Apes (anthropology.net)

Redefining the Word "Human" (Oxford Univ. Press Blog)

Related older courses and presentations by Dr. Filler:

Primate Form and Function - Antrho 215, Harvard University (1980)

Sir Richard Owen, Sir Arthur Keith, and the lost styloid process: Serial homology and the evolution of the human spine. (Royal Society of Medicine (1992)

Related older publications from Dr. Filler:

Anatomical Evidence for the "hylobatian" model of hominid evolution. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 52:226 (1980).

Anatomical specializaions in the hominoid lumbar region. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 54:218 (1981).

Evolution of the Sacrum in Hominoids. In: Surgical Disorders  of the Sacrum, JR Doty and SS Rengachary eds. Thieme Medical Publishers, New York pp.13-20, (1993).

Home page figure credits

Apes - from: Schultz, A. H. (1933). Die Körporproportionen der erwachsenen catarrhinen Primaten, mit spezieller Berüchsichtigung der Menschenaffen. Anthropologischer Anzeiger 10: 154-85 and Schultz, A. H. (1969). The Life of Primates. New York, Universe Books. Drawings reproduced by permission of Orion publishing and by permission of the Anthropological Institute of the University of Zurich. Vitruvian man - from: Davinci, L. (1492). Canon of Proportions. Academy of Fine Arts, Venice.

Photographs by Nina Leen
Vereecke, E. E., K. D'Aout and P. Aerts (2006). Locomotor versatility in the white-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar): a spatiotemporal analysis of the bipedal, tripedal, and quadrupedal gaits. Journal of Human Evolution 50(5): 552-67. Photograph and drawings reproduced by permission of Elsevier.