Kolkata mermaid baby
Mermaid baby YouTube screen grab

Mermaid syndrome or Sirenomelia occurs in approximately one in every 60,000 to 100,000 births, reports National Organization for Rare Disorders. On December 6, one such case grabbed the limelight in Kolkata situated in the eastern part of India.

A 23-year-old Muskura Bibi gave birth to a baby whose legs were fused together. Doctors failed to detect the sex of the baby due to its fused legs and underdeveloped pelvis area. The mermaid baby tragically died in four hours due to the rare condition Sirenomelia or mermaid syndrome.

This is not the first case of Sirenomelia rather it's the second such case in India after a woman from Uttar Pradesh gave birth to the country's first mermaid baby in 2016. Sadly, the baby was alive for only 10 minutes.

A baby's resemblance to mermaids might seem to be an anomaly but speaking of evolution, it might not be that unobvious. The aquatic ape hypothesis or the aquatic ape theory suggests that modern humans are more similar to aquatic mammals in the past. The theory states that a branch of apes had to opt out of life in the trees to hunt for food in the sea which can again be held responsible for the upright posture carried by humans. The idea of the same was first proposed by marine biologist Alister Hardy in 1960.

Why are humans then so different from other land animals?

The aquatic ape theory suggests that early humans spent the majority of their time in the sea to hunt for food. The traits that make humans different from other land animals are the legacy they carry from this very period.

Few qualities in humans make them distinctly similar to aquatic mammals such as dolphins or whales, particularly when it comes to holding breath underwater, body fat to keep the body warm when in water or less body hair to help humans swim swiftly through the waves.

Irrespective of all these adaptations for life in the water yet humans lack adaptations when compared to other land animals such as shedding salted tears and sweat. Salt and water are valuable resources. Other land animals are able to conserve them unlike humans primarily because a part of human evolution took place in the sea. A group of brown bears after separation evolved into polar bears. Polar bears can swim underwater as well as hold their breath underwater and are in process of evolving into another new species of aquatic mammals.

Group of apes to marine mammals

Food drove the detached group of apes to the shores of the sea. It is believed that the human ability to walk upright first evolved here by waiting in places where food was easily found. Advanced intelligence was first formulated here itself as brain-building nutrients such as iodine and fatty acids were abundant in shellfish.

East African coast after being submerged under the rising sea, led some apes to move inland who still retained some of the features they had adapted while living on the coast. Another group chose to dwell in the sea thus evolving into mermaids.

Keeping the hypothesis aside, speaking of the disorder in a more scientific manner, Sirenomelia is a complex developmental disorder where gastrointestinal abnormalities, anomalies of the lumbarsacral spine and pelvis and absence or underdevelopment (agenesis) of one or both kidneys leads to the victim's death.

The exact cause of the disease is unknown. Environmental genetic factors or some new mutation might be the cause behind it. An anomaly in the blood circulating system within the embryo might also be a possible factor. The condition occurs when the umbilical cord fails to create two arteries in infants.

The disease has never seen any survivors till date. Due to underdeveloped arteries, the blood supply to the foetus is insufficient. Those suffering from this disorder die due to kidney and bladder failure.

The creatures from fantasy tales and folklores are appealing enough but are definitely fatal when it comes to real life incidents.