“Accepting it (Homo floresiensis) will require us to rewrite the textbooks.” – William Jungers, Stony Brook University.
The so-called “hobbit” bones found on the Island of Flores in Indonesia have both perplexed anthropologists and instigated many film crews to brave the rainforests of Indonesia (such as Sumatra) for the million dollar photograph. Although, most anthropologists will tell you the creature no longer exists, there are many people that beleive (and some who claimed to have seen) “Orang Pendek,” whose name literally means “short person” in Indonesian. We cannot label all these people that beleive in Orang Pendek as “ghost chasers” because it is, afterall, the rare anthropologists who makes a statement that some of these creatures like Orang Pendek or Sasquatch CAN theoretically exist within a particular habitat, this really is fuel to the fire. Just like the History Channel show done on this creature, it really it just a Monster Quest. For more information on the search for Orang Pendek, visit a group who actively searches: http://www.orangpendek.org/
The long debates among anthropologists over the real “hobbit” bones have finally come to widespread conclusions (at least for now) that has, as with everything else in science, led to many more questions.
Studies say ‘hobbit’ previously unknown species
by Marlowe Hood Marlowe Hood – Thu May 7, 9:16 am ET
PARIS (AFP) – The tiny ancient humans dubbed hobbits, whose remains were discovered on an Indonesian island in 2003, were a previously unknown species altogether, according to two new studies.
Debate has raged in the scientific community since the fossils were found on the island of Flores, with some experts insisting they were descended from Homo erectus and others saying evolution could not account for their small brains.
About a metre (three feet) tall and weighing 30 kilos (65 pounds), the tiny, tool-making hunters may have roamed the remote island as recently as 8,000 years ago. Their fossils are about 18,000 years old.
Many scientists have said Homo floresiensis, as the creature is now formally known, was a prehistoric human stunted by natural selection over millennia through a process called insular dwarfing.
Others countered that even this evolutionary shrinking, well documented in island-bound animals, could not account for the chimpanzee-sized brain — just a third the size of that in a modern human being.
The only plausible explanation, they insisted, was that the handful of specimens found had a genetic disorder resulting in an abnormally small skull or that they suffered from “dwarf cretinism” caused by deficient thyroids.
Two new studies in the British journal Nature go a long way toward settling the debate.
A team led by William Jungers of Stony Brook University in New York tackled the problem by analysing the hobbit’s foot.
In some ways it is very human. The big toe is aligned with the others and the joints make it possible to extend the toes as the body’s full weight falls on the foot — attributes not found in great apes.
But in other respects it is startlingly primitive: far longer than its modern human equivalent and equipped with a very small big toe, long and curved lateral toes, and a weight-bearing structure closer to a chimpanzee’s.
Recent archaeological evidence from Kenya shows that the modern foot evolved more than 1.5 million years ago, most likely in Homo erectus.
So unless the Flores hobbits became more primitive over time — considered extremely unlikely — they must have branched off the human line at an even earlier date.
For Jungers and colleagues, this suggests their ancestor was not Homo erectus “but instead some other more primitive hominin whose dispersal into southeast Asia is still undocumented.”
Companion studies published by the Journal of Human Evolution bolster this theory and conjecture that these more ancient forebears may be the still poorly understood Homo habilis.
In any case, Homo floresiensis would be confirmed as a separate species.
But what still has not been explained the hobbit’s inordinately small brain.
That’s where hippos come into the picture.
Eleanor Weston and Adrian Lister of the Natural History Museum in London compared fossils of several species of ancient hippos found on the island of Madagascar with the mainland ancestors from which they had evolved.
They were surprised to find that insular dwarfing — driven by the need to adapt to an island environment — shrank their brains far more than had previously been thought possible.
“Whatever the explanation for the tiny brain of H. floresiensis relative to its body size, our evidence suggests that insular dwarfing could have played a role in its evolution,” they conclude.
While the new studies answer some questions, they also raise new ones sure to spark fresh debate, Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman said in Nature.
Only more fossil evidence will indicate whether the hobbits of Flores evolved from Homo erectus, whose traces have been found throughout Eurasia, or from an even more ancient lineage not yet found outside Africa, he said. (From: <a href=”http://news.yahoo.
According to the Anthropology.net blog:
During the 7th Human Evolution Symposium, Hobbits in the Haystack: Homo floresiensis and Human Evolution at Stony Brook, Dean Falk presented her lecture entitled “Whence Homo floresiensis? Clues from the Brain”. She concluded that Homo floresiensis is a species of its own, LB1 did not suffer from microcephaly and Homo floresiensis is not a diminutive form of Homo erectus or Homo sapiens. Falk commented that LB1 had a small-sized but “fancy” brain and that there was a “global reorganization” of the brain. Comparing LB1 with 9 modern human microcephalic skulls, Falk came to the conclusion that LB1’s skull is nothing alike from a microcephalic and that LB1 was not a microcephalic.
Meaning LB1 (the skeleton found on the Island of Flores) did not suffer from microcephaly, which is a neurodevelopmental disorder in which the circumference of the head is more than two standard deviations smaller than average for the person’s age and sex.
The shape of LB1’s brain matches closely to those of Homo habilis. Falk thinks that LB1 might share ancestral history with Homo habilis and australopithecines. This is due to the characteristics that are found in LB1’s brain. Falk ended her lecture by talking about “insular dwarfism”. Brain size and relative body size shrinks proportionately in the case of insular dwarfism. In the case of Homo floresiensis, its brain size did not shrink proportionately with its relative body size when compared to Homo erectus or Homo sapiens (based on the argument that Homo floresiensis is a diminutive version of Homo erectus or Homo sapiens)
This new study is in complete opposition to an earlier one, which concluded that with (click to read study) Compelling evidence demonstrates that ‘Hobbit’ fossil does not represent a new species of hominid.
And of course, here come the proposed questions. No doubt the truth about the “hobbit” will be debated for many years to come.
A list of what Richard Leakey commented and asked during the symposium:
We should be careful when using Lucy as model for comparison because Lucy is not representative of the genus Australopithecine in general.
We don’t have Homo erectus feet in our fossil record. The fossilized foot prints that were found in Ileret, Kenya has been suggested that it was left behind by Homo ergaster, an earlier version of Homo erectus.
There should be more discussion on the types of dating methods used on Homo floresiensis and the artifacts found in association with it.
There should be more discussion and research to link lithic materials to the Hobbits, or Homo floresiensis.
What were the geographic isolation of Flore? How did the Hobbits ended up in Flores?
Were there large carnivores in Flores or lack thereof? Hobbits have ape-like feet that were built for walking but not for running. Did they survive despite that because they have no need for speed to get away from predators?