Nasal evolution and Breath Holding

September 16, 2014

It was a cool summer day and I was the only one at the pool. Our development has a wonderful pool, with all the accoutrements but the day threatened a coming storm. So as I found my way to this little oasis, I was the only one there. I have always read that one shouldn’t practice freediving techniques alone. But I made sure that I wouldn’t go beyond the most rudimentary practices. I’d only hold my breath for a minute or two. I’ve done this many times before.

For the last few days I’ve been contemplating human evolution as it pertains to life on or around the water. As a child I wondered the Smithsonian institute and saw the recreation of various stages of evolved man wandering the savannah hunting game the questions started rolling around my head.

Why did the jaw size change? Why did we lose hair? Why did we walk on two legs? Why did we lose muscles? None of the images from the museum answered these questions. Only later, after I researched the theory of the “aquatic ape theory” of evolution did I begin to find the answers.

I held my breath and asked the question, “Was there a correlation between my ability to hold my breath and some evolutionary process in the nose?” It was a fundamental question that added to the legacy of scientific research about the aquatic ape theory. A good friend of mind complained about his deviated septum. Another runner had his septum removed so he could breathe better.

Many of the scientific journals spoke how primates had “vertical” deviated septums. However, the horizontal deviated septum seemed something relegated to modern man. The fact that we can place our fingers around half way down and restrict air (or water) to the nose be an evolutionary byproduct of our life on water. Without holding our nose with our fingers many people can constrict our airways preventing water into our sinus cavity.

You may be one who uses breath-right strips to be able to sleep at night. This is an artificial way to open the sinus cavity around the septum. We are evolved to hold our breath. Other primates with much larger sinus cavities would be unable to do what we do in water. They avoid the water. We seek it out.

I continue to look for definitive proof in the study of Rhinology (the study of the nose) for confirmation of my theory. A 1977 report in the magazine, ”Rhinology” by Takahashi spoke of the evolution of the nose and the results supported my theory. The horizontal growth of the septum supports the evolution of an early hominid who could hunt underwater with a nose that could cut off entry of water into the sinuses.

As I completed my length of the pool I surfaced and inhaled a great gulp of air. I would repeat this process many times that day. Each time I would extend my distance and time underwater. One minute. Two minutes. Two minutes and thirty seconds. Each was well within my tolerance level. Yet, each time I performed the underwater operation I couldn’t help but think about my ancestors hunting in the flooded savannahs and poking their face into the water looking for fish.



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