A New Look at the Controversial "Hobbit" Fossil SkeletonS

Here you can see the skeleton of a Homo floresiensis, one of the so-called Hobbits who lived about 20,000 years ago in Indonesia. New evidence shows it probably is a new species.

The tiny remains - which revealed a hominid who stood a little over 3 feet when fully grown - was brought in to Stony Brook University on Long Island during a conference on evolution which focused partly on the discovery of Homo floresiensis. While some anthropologists say the Hobbit is just a deformed homo sapiens, others suggest it is just another extinct branch on the hominid tree like the Neanderthals. Remains of the Homo floresiensis were discovered near caves with tools, and some scientists say it probably used fire and hunted.

It's possible that Homo floresiensis was an evolutionary throwback, too. According to Live Science:

Its anatomy seems to be primitive. Many Homo floresiensis features, such as the shoulder, wrist, jaw and teeth, more closely resemble earlier hominin species such as Australopithecus afarensis ("Lucy") than modern humans.

Most of the researchers at the conference believe that the Hobbits represent a new species:

Florida State University anthropologist Dean Falk described a study in which she compared the size and shape of the Homo floresiensis brain (based on scans of the skull) to that of modern humans, chimpanzees, the early hominin species Homo erectus, and humans with a disorder called microcephaly, which has been suggested as an explanation for the Hobbit's small stature. She found the Hobbit brain most closely resembles Homo erectus, and is least like the brain with microcephaly.

"In our view we dispensed at that point with the microcelpahy hypothesis," she said. "It's not just that their brains are small; they're differently shaped. It's its own species."

There are no known pathologies that can account for all the anatomy features seen in Homo floresiensis, Washington University anthropologist Charles Hildebolt said.

I just hope we find some living in some remote area of the forest, or in caves deep under Jakarta.

via Live Science

Image via Stony Brook.