Why intelligence developed better on land while it did not in an older environment: the sea?
Do marine species dispose of more non-cognitive characteristics than terrestrial species? Are marine species faster? Poisonous? Bigger? Does the environment help?
This is a tough comparison because almost everything works differently in both realms. For example, the land environment receives more light, while, in the sea, large animals weigh a lot less (and even the sound runs faster in water). So, science can’t tell yet if the absence of light, or the less weight, benefits hostile predatory characteristics underwater. But, although these things are different, the rules of the competition are applied in the same way at sea and on land. Then at least, we can raise the following question: (besides water) what can we only find in the terrestrial environment that may be crucial to the development of human intelligence? If we reverse engineer our evolutionary process we could say: “Trees!”.
Found trouble? Climb a Tree!
In the terrestrial environment, hostile species may not have adapted to the difficulties presented in new niches (like treetops) to which some shy species may have adapted better. While the success of hostile characteristics of predatory marine species over thousands of years may have made the main course of evolutionary changes in marine animals limit the activity of more shy (non-hostile) species. So,
in the history of terrestrial life, it may have happened that new niches, such as treetops, required new skills which hostile species may not have developed so quickly (such as: hanging on trees and jump from branch to branch).
According to this perspective, however, the development of human intelligence on land may also have occurred only by luck. After all, if mammals had not found a safe haven against some predatory species in the Mesozoic, or even if apes, in subsequent moments, could not survive the attacks of giant birds ¹, our ancestors would not have generated the homo sapiens sapiens. Therefore, the super-intelligent apes (that better represents the success of intelligence/cognition in the terrestrial environment) may have survived only in a circumstantial absence of extremely hostile predators.
The Irony of It:
While trees may have protected our ancestors (that is, while the trees may explain why the shyness of our ancestors may have won against the hostility of other species), we are now destroying the trees and behaving in a more hostile way than any other species of this planet.
¹ Just like one that seems to had preyed a 6-year-old Neanderthal child in a cave in Poland during the ice age, according to an article published in the Journal of Paleolithic Archeology: Paleobiology and Taphonomy of a Middle Paleolithic Neandertal Tooth from Ciemna Cave, Southern Poland (2019)