Skip to comments.Here, there be dragons ["Hobbits" from Australopithecus garhi?]
Posted on 06/16/2008 2:20:28 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
When fossils of a diminutive, recently extinct race of humans were discovered in a cave on Flores, one of the most easterly islands of the Indonesian archipelago, researchers can be forgiven for assuming they were down-sized by the peculiar selection pressures that act upon insular species.
On Flores, natural selection has morphed several familiar species to unfamiliar sizes. There be dragons: three metre, 200kg monitor lizards, also known as the Komodo dragon, plus the fossilised remains of an extinct giant rodent, Spelaeomys, and extinct Stegodon pigmy elephants.
The tiny skulls of the Flores fossils ignited a heated, sometimes ad hominin, debate about whether they represented a new species of Homo, or were merely microcephalic mutants of a Floresian form of H. erectus, or even a microcephalic H. sapiens.
But a new cladistic analysis by an Australian National University PhD student suggests the diminutive, gracile humans who lived on Flores as recently as 12,000 years ago, now popularly known as 'hobbits', might not have been dwarfed by insular life.
Debbie Argue, of the Australian National University's School of Archaeology and Anthropology, has produced strong evidence that Homo floresiensis was tiny because its African ancestors were tiny.
If Argue is right, H. floresiensis descends from the first hominins to leave Africa, and this might have happened some 2.25 million years ago, around the time when the first, primitive Homo species was emerging in Africa.
If so, the hobbits' forebears could have colonised the Indonesian archipelago up to half a million years before the first large hominin species, Homo erectus - Java Man - crossed the deepwater gaps separating Java and Lombok, and Sumbawa and Flores, by means that did not involve swimming.
(Excerpt) Read more at biotechnews.com.au ...
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This is the first article that has me leaning toward accepting H. florensis as being a separate species.
(Wish the article mentioned which statistics they used.)
There were only two online sources when I saw it, probably more will be available later, or at least, it would be nice. :’)
The detailed measurements of skull and mandible coupled with multivariate statistics is the ideal way of dealing with this. You take a lot of the subjectivity out of the process, and sometimes come up with unexpected results. (I did a lot of this in grad school, but with prehistoric rather than paleontological specimens.)
Excellent article thanks! Those that think Hobbits were microcephalic mutants are small thinking people.
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