With apocalyptic headlines about climate change seemingly becoming the new norm, it's no wonder science fiction has become a more popular subject than ever. If this planet becomes inhabitable, where will we go? Or, more pressingly, how will humans evolve in the future when adaptation could be the difference between extinction and survival? Paleoanthropologist Dr. Matthew Skinner has a few ideas, but you better buckle up — it's a bit of a wild ride.
Before we go any further and you being envisioning how fetching you might be with gills, let's take a moment to acknowledge the fact that Dr. Skinner's suppositions come by way of a promotional video. In his own words, "To celebrate the launch of Season 2 of Extant on SyFy [in the U.K.], the channel challenged me to think about how the human body might evolve to survive in three different habitat scenarios." However, it's just as important to note that Dr. Skinner is the real deal — he is a scientist and the senior lecturer in evolutionary anthropology at the U.K.'s University of Kent, so the guy knows his stuff. Does he know for certain humans will evolve in the ways he posits? No. But if anyone would have a solid idea of how things might play out in the future, it's this dude.
So the fact that he has put his considerably massive brain to use and come up with the following evolutionary adaptations humans may undergo is pretty compelling. Here's what we might one day be working with. Prepare to marvel — and scroll down to watch the full video.
1. Longer, Webbed Digits
If global warming continues to melt the polar ice caps, there will be a drastic enough rise in sea levels to essentially put us all under water. No word yet on whether Kevin Costner will be leading the charge into this new water world, but if he does he'll likely have long, webbed fingers. And toes, for that matter. Both of which would help us swim better.
2. A Bit More Padding
Presumably, the water we'll inhabit — particularly at great depths — won't always be temperate. In order to help keep our bodies insulated during long spans submerged, we could hold onto a layer of baby fat well into adulthood. Cozy.
Because I've always dwelled near water wherever I've chosen to live in my life, the running joke in our family is that my gills will dry out if I venture too far from the ocean. Turns out one day this might actually be a reality, as regular foraging in the shallows could lead to humans developing artificial gills.
4. Smaller Rib Cages
Because our artificial gills will assist with breathing by pulling oxygen from the surrounding water, our lung capacity will diminish. And since we won't need as much space for our lungs, we won't need as much space to house them either — the reduction in lung capacity will in turn lead to our rib cages shrinking.
5. Third Eyelids
If we're going to be able to see in murky water, we're going to need something a bit more sophisticated than the goggles you buy at cheap beach stores. As such, we could develop a nictitating membrane — a third eyelid which protects our eyeballs underwater. You know, like alligators have. Sufficiently freaked out yet?
6. Longer Arms
Let's say instead of living in a water world, we decided to colonize a new one entirely. Since this is something we love to speculate about and watch onscreen, inhabiting another planet actually doesn't seem so far-fetched. If we did, though, we'd probably wind up with longer arms and shorter legs to make low gravity walking more feasible.
7. Smaller Jaws and Fewer Teeth
Who needs a mouth full of pearly whites when you're sipping your meals through a straw or tossing 'em down the hatch in pill form? Not future humans, apparently. Because food in liquid or pill form would relax the pressure on our mouths, our jaws might get smaller and we might lose our teeth altogether.
8. Larger Noses and Faces
If the scenario humans are saddled with in the future is a second ice age (which my husband insists is coming any day now), the temperature of Earth would obviously plummet. So to help warm up all of the frigid air we'll be inhaling, future humans will likely sport larger faces and larger noses in increase the size of the nasopharynx — the area behind the nose where the air would be warmed.
9. Paler Skin and Hair
Less sunlight means less opportunities to soak up some Vitamin D, which is critical to our bodies' function. To make the most of every little bit of Vitamin D, our skin and hair would become paler to absorb more light. So, basically, we might all look like Avril Lavigne.
10. An Abundance of Body Hair
Unfortunately, having platinum hair and pale skin won't be enough to keep us from freezing in a nearly sunless society. But you know what could ensure our warmth and survival? A sh*t ton of body hair. If you needed an excuse to stop spending money on your waxer, this a happy day for you, indeed.
11. Opposable Big Toes
As if the disproportionately long arms, webbed fingers, and super hairy bodies wasn't enough to convince you future people will be super sexy beasts, feast on this: low gravity will make it hard to walk, so we'll also sprout opposable big toes for added balance. The future is shaping up to be hot, you guys. Don't believe me? Check out the full vid below.
Images: Universal Pictures; SyFy UK/Facebook (11)