Skip to comments.'Hobbits' Not A Different Species, Say Scientists
Posted on 01/13/2008 2:25:04 PM PST by blam
'Hobbits' not a different species, say scientists
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Last Updated: 7:01pm GMT 03/01/2008
The long-running debate about the existence of so-called hobbits of Indonesia has taken a new turn with a study that suggests these ancient people were not an unusual species of human but modern humans with a growth disorder.
Scientists believe the "hobbit" had the same growth condition as Paddy Ryan
The work, if confirmed, suggests that there could be up to around 100 documented such "hobbits" in the world today, the people who have the mutation that leads to them being normally proportioned but half-sized.
Four years ago, Prof Mike Morwood, of the University of New England, in Armidale, Australia, and colleagues made headlines worldwide when they announced the discovery of 18,000-year-old remains of Homo floresiensis in the Liang Bua Cave on the Indonesian island of Flores.
The human evolutionary cousin, nicknamed the hobbit after the diminutive people in JRR Tolkein's Lord Of The Rings, stood only three foot tall and was thought to be an entirely new species of human, with a brain about the size of a chimpanzee's.
Ever since there has been debate whether or not the bones were actually from pygmies - even today there are pygmies on the island - and not a new species of human that lived between 120,000 and 10,000 years ago. One idea is that they suffered from microcephaly, a disorder that limits brain growth.
Today support for this idea comes from the discovery of a gene for a rare growth condition, MOPD II, that causes small brain and body size but near-normal intelligence, reported in the journal Science by a large international team including Dr Anita Rauch of Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg in Erlangen, Germany, and colleagues.
Adults with this rare inherited condition reach an average height of a metre and although their brain is comparable in size to that of a three-month-old baby, they have near unaffected intelligence. The research study was triggered by two unrelated tiny girls living in northern Bavaria.
The culprit gene is PCNT, which encodes a protein that plays an important role in anchoring the structure that pulls chromosomes apart during cell division. The precise mechanisms by which these effects at the cellular level lead to the overall effect on body size, remains to be determined, but it is intriguing that other inherited forms of microcephaly (disorders characterized by small brain size) have likewise been linked to genes involved in this aspect of cell division. "Knowing that a child has MOPD II and not any other type of short stature helps to provide the best medical management to avoid complications," says Dr Rauch.
In the conclusion of their article, Dr Rauch and her team speculate that the "hobbit" fossils from Flores, Indonesia may represent people with mutations in this gene.
An earlier paper pointed out that the wrist bones of the hobbit are are primitive and shaped differently compared to both the wrist bones of both humans and of Neanderthals, leading to them to conclude they do represent a different kind of human.
But Dr Rauch points out that people who carry this mutation do have subtle bony anomalies of the hand and wrist, "By the way, as is visible by the pictures we show of patients, the posture of the shoulder is also abnormal in MOPD II patients, like it was suggested for the hobbits," she added.
One MOPD II patient, is Paddy Ryan, 30, who lives in County Tipperary, Republic of Ireland, who "manages his life extremely well in a supportive rural Irish community," said Dr Robert Semple Addenbrooke's Hospital Cambridge.
Yesterday, Mr Ryan, who only found out he had the mutation responsib le for condition last October, said that his parents realised the day he was born that he was unusually small. But, despite his height, near 3ft 6 inches, "I am not like a dwarf. Everything is in proportion. I am just a small person."
He has diabetes and it is unclear if this is linked with the MOPD II, he says, adding that he has been told that, since it is so rare, a treatment is unlikely to be developed.
As for everyday life, "I just get on with it. I do what I have to do," says Mr Ryan, who drives a Honda Civic that has been specially adapted and does quality control testing of electronics. "Noone with MOPD II has married or had children," he adds.
Many of the MOPD II people die early due to stroke - before they even think of having their own children, " says Dr Rauch. "On the other hand it is difficult for them in our culture to find somebody to marry because of their stature. Anyhow, that does not undermine the hobbit link, because the increase of such genetic disorder comes from mating of healthy carrier people that have affected children. Once the incidence of the disorders is high in a certain population, they might also marry each other. But that's not a prerequisite to increase the disorder in the population, as it is transmitted in a recessive manner over healthy carriers."
It still amazes me how quickly “scientists” jump to conclusions on faith alone. ;-)
Was it a colony that was transferred to the area...like the leper colony in Hawaii? Did interbreeding continue until the defect and its’ other weaknesses eventually killed the colony off?
I saw the same program.
When that older village chief showed up, man was he short.
It’s my opinion that controversy on all these “guesses” produces NEW GRANT MONEY. It’s a game. But it’s interesting.
And he was the HIGH CHIEF.
‘Hobbits’ Not A Different Species, Say Scientists: Doubts about Democrats Linger
Thanks Blam. Vanishing hobbit ping.
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Food of the Anti-Gods?
there are still issues with both sides of the argument
Story after story, and it all comes down to he-thinks/she-thinks.
Take a cheek swab & a blood sample, and let me know when the paternity test is back.
Finding truth is one thing; so is attempting to uphold one's reputation; wrangling for the sake of garnering more grant money is just unseemly.
Except for their feet...
Sometimes I really wonder whether they make totally off the wall statements just to get their names in the News cycle.
"Since then, bones belonging to at least eight more individuals have been found, ranging in age from 95,000 to 12,000 years old. Our own species has been alive for at least 100,000 years, in case you were wondering. "
If all the samples found over a range of 83,000 years exhibit the same charactistics...I wouldn't expect that only the bones of the diseased one would survive.
"These bones are such a conglomeration of the primitive and the modern, so tiny, and so recent, that many scientists thought they were a hoax. "If you told me an alien space craft had landed in a field in Flores I would have been less surprised," said experienced paleoanthropologist Peter Brown, who studied the bones.
How about the pygmies in Africa. I love the show Little People Big World. There have been very small perfectly proportioned people on that show.
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