Monday, January 29, 2007

'Hobbit' was no pygmy, but a separate species

'Hobbit' was no pygmy, but a separate species:

Jan.30 (ANI):

World-renowned paleo-neurologist and chairman of the Florida State University's anthropology department Dean Falk has acknowledged that "Hobbits" are indeed a separate and a new homonid species.

Having carried out further studies on the skeletal remains of an 18,000-year-old Hobbit-sized human discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, Falk and her team of researchers are now convinced that the "Hobbit" catalogued as LB1 - Homo Floresiensis - was definitely not a human born as a pygmy or a microcephalic - a human with an abnormally small skull.

Falk and her team of international experts have based their finding on detailed maps of imprints left on the ancient hominid's braincase, and concluded that the so-called Hobbit was actually more closely related to Homo Sapiens.

"We have answered the people who contend that the Hobbit is a microcephalic," Falk said of her team's study of both normal and microcephalic human brains published in the January 29 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS).

A debate over the remains of the 3-foot-tall adult female with a brain roughly one-third the size of a contemporary human has been going on for the past four years.

People have refused to believe that someone with that small of a brain could make sophisticated tools, but according to Dr. Falk, the LB1 had a highly evolved brain that wasn't very big, but was reorganised to carry out certain actions in tune with activity normally related to homo sapians.

In the latest study, the researchers compared 3-D, computer-generated reconstructions of nine microcephalic modern human brains and 10 normal modern human brains. They found that certain shape features completely separate the two groups and that Hobbit classifies with normal humans rather than microcephalic humans in these features. In other ways, however, Hobbit's brain is unique, which is consistent with its attribution to a new species.

Comparison of two areas in the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe and the back of the brain show the Hobbit brain is nothing like a microcephalic's and is advanced in a way that is different from living humans. In fact, the LB1 brain was the "antithesis" of the microcephalic brain, according to Falk, a finding the researchers hope puts this part of the Hobbit controversy to rest.

In October last year, researchers said that the Hobbit fossil found in Flores, Indonesia did not represent a new species of hominid, but was rather a small bodied modern human who suffered from a genetic condition known as microcephaly, characterized by a small head.

A study published in Nature in 2004 had said that the fossil belonged to a new species of hominid. The claim had divided palaeontologists into two distinct camps, with one camp vociferously arguing that the remains belonged to a new species.

Microcephaly is a term that covers many conditions. There are more than 400 different human genes for which mutations can result in small brain size. Accordingly, there is a correspondingly wide range of different syndromes that are recognized in clinical practice.

In August, a view was circulated that the Indonesian hobbit was actually a deformed Homo Sapien. The belief then was that Homo Erectus reached Flores 840,000 years ago and, living in isolation, evolved into a species distinct from Homo sapiens, named as Homo floresiensis.

They said geographically, Flores had at least two migrations of ancient elephants from nearby islands, and therefore it was highly unlikely that hominids arrived only once and evolved in isolation.

Also, the island was not large enough to have supported isolated hunter-gatherers with a population adequate enough to maintain genetic diversity for long-term survival. A later study by a joint Indonesian, Australian, and US research team showed that the remains belonged to a Homo sapiens and not a distinct species.

In May last year, there was a view that hobbits simply did not exist"It's perfectly plausible that these were pygmy people. But there's only one skull, and that is human and microcephalic," claimed Professor Robert Martin then. (ANI)

The PNAS article is not up at their website at this time, but should be shortly.

It should also be noted that Dr. Dwight Smith and Gary Mangiacopra have authored a new article on the subject of Homo Floresiensis , this article is slated to appear in the forthcoming Bestia Elementum book under the CRYPTO series in April / May 2007. In this entry the authors propose that Homo floresiensis is not only a new species, but a potential new genus.......

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