‘Hobbit’ a genuine ancient human species, say scientists

November 21st, 2009 - 2:09 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, November 21 (ANI): A team of scientists has confirmed that Homo floresiensis, dubbed the ‘hobbit’, is a genuine ancient human species and not a descendant of healthy humans dwarfed by disease.

Using statistical analysis on skeletal remains of a well-preserved female specimen, researchers from Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York, determined the “hobbit” to be a distinct species and not a genetically flawed version of modern humans.

In 2003, Australian and Indonesian scientists discovered small-bodied, small-brained, human-like fossils on the remote island of Flores in the Indonesian archipelago.

This discovery of a new human species called Homo floresiensis has spawned much debate with some researchers claiming that the small creatures are really modern humans whose tiny head and brain are the result of a medical condition called microcephaly.

Researchers William Jungers and Karen Baab studied the skeletal remains of a female (LB1), nicknamed “Little Lady of Flores” or “Flo” to confirm the evolutionary path of the hobbit species.

The specimen was remarkably complete and included skull, jaw, arms, legs, hands, and feet that provided researchers with integrated information from an individual fossil.

The cranial capacity of LB1 was just over 400 cm, making it more similar to the brains of a chimpanzee or bipedal “ape-men” of East and South Africa.

The skull and jawbone features are much more primitive looking than any normal modern human.

Statistical analysis of skull shapes show modern humans cluster together in one group, microcephalic humans in another and the hobbit along with ancient hominins in a third.

Due to the relative completeness of fossil remains for LB1, the scientists were able to reconstruct a reliable body design that was unlike any modern human.

The thigh bone and shin bone of LB1 are much shorter than modern humans including Central African pygmies, South African KhoeSan and “negrito” pygmies from the Andaman Islands and the Philippines.

Some researchers speculate this could represent an evolutionary reversal correlated with “island dwarfing.”

“It is difficult to believe an evolutionary change would lead to less economical movement,” said Dr. Jungers.

“It makes little sense that this species re-evolved shorter thighs and legs because long hind limbs improve bipedal walking. We suspect that these are primitive retentions instead,” he added.

“Attempts to dismiss the hobbits as pathological people have failed repeatedly because the medical diagnoses of dwarfing syndromes and microcephaly bear no resemblance to the unique anatomy of Homo floresiensis,” said Dr. Baab. (ANI)

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