Homo Floresiensis - the Hobbit

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“Home Floresiensis - The Hobbit”

Homo floresiensis (“Man of Flores”) is the name for a possible new species in the genus Homo, remarkable for its small body, small brain, and survival until relatively recent times (www.en.wikipedia.org). Anthropologists Peter Brown of University of New England in South Wales, Australia, Michael Morwood and their colleagues have argued that a variety of features, both primitive and derived, identified LB1 (the first skeleton found in cave of Liang Bua) is that of a new species of hominin, Homo floresiensis. The first specimens were discovered by Thomas Sutikna and colleagues from the Indonesian Research Centre for Archaeology in Liang Bua cave of Flores, Indonesia in September of 2003 (www.newscientist.com). It’s most important and obvious identifying features were its small body and small brain. These species have been established to have survived on Flores until at least 12,000 years ago. However, there are still some anthropologists, such as Professor Teuku Jacob, who would claim these findings as anything but extraordinary. Whether these specimens represent a new species or not is a controversial issue within the scientific community as a growing number of scientists are challenging this sensational discovery. Named Homo floresiensis, after the island on which it was found, the tiny human has also been nicknamed as the “hobbit” by the dig workers, after the little creatures from the Lord of the Rings books. A joint team of Australian and Indonesian archaeologists discovered bones of the miniature humans on the island of Flores, which rests 370 miles east of Bali, Indonesia, while looking for evidence of ancient human migration across East Asia to Australia (ufo.whipnet.org). The original skeleton found was fairly complete with a near-complete skull and was proposed to be that of a 30-year-old female (LB1), nicknamed the “Little Lady of Flores”, that stood about 3 feet 3 inches tall. It weighs about 55 pounds and is around 18,000 years old, which allows researchers to believe that these tiny people were present at the same time with modern humans (Homo sapiens) on the island of Flores (www.nationalgeographic.com). Parts of six other individuals, all being diminutive, have been recovered as well as an array of small stone tools ranging from 94,000 to 13,000 years ago. These remains were unearthed in September of 2003 under about 18 feet of silt caused by a volcanic eruption nearly 12,000 years ago (ufo.whipnet.org). Even more interesting is the fact that Flores’ inhabitants have incredibly detailed legends and stories about the existence of little people on the island they call Ebu Gogo. These islanders have described this Ebu Gogo as being about one meter tall, hairy, and prone to “murmuring” to each other in some form of language. They were also able to mimic the language of the islanders and say it back to them in a parrot-like fashion. The last legend featuring these mythical creatures dates to just 100 years ago (www.news.bbc.co.uk). In a Nature commentary, Marta Lahr and Robert Foley, both with the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies at the University of Cambridge, England, described Homo floresiensis as changing our understand of late human evolutionary geography, biology, and culture. Described as one of the most spectacular discoveries in paleanthropology in half a century and the most extreme human discovered, this species has raised more questions than it can answer. One of these questions is how it got to be so small, averaging about 1 meter (3.3 feet) in height with a brain the size of a grapefruit and still managing to survive about 82,000 years. Researchers say that dwarfing is commonplace on islands where resources are finite. In biology, there is a form of natural selection known as “island dwarfing” which proposes that if you take a species and put it on an island, it will shrink over time because it is more...
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