Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Hobbit" a Hominid After All

The remains of some "humanoid" species were found on the remote Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. Anthropologists dubbed this creature Homo floresiensis -- nicknamed "the hobbit" due to its size. They were about three feet high and lived in caves between 8,000 to 18,000 years ago.

Since that time, the battle has been raging among anthropologists as to what these specimens actually were.
Many scientists have said H. floresiensis were prehistoric humans descended from homo erectus, stunted by natural selection over millennia through a process called insular dwarfing.

Others countered that even this evolutionary shrinking, well known in island-bound animals, could not account for the hobbit's chimp-sized grey matter of barely more than 400 cubic centimetres, a third the size of a modern human brain... The only plausible explanation, they insisted, was that the handful of specimens found suffered from a genetic disorder resulting in an abnormally small skull or -- a more recent finding -- that they suffered from "dwarf cretinism" caused by deficient thyroids.
As is the case with good science, further study is helping to shed light on this murky picture. Apparently, these "hobbits" were hominids, not humans, after all. And believe it or not, part of this discovery relates to hippos. Seriously.

"Ancient 'hobbit' humans new species after all: study"

Basically, the bottom line is, these "hobbits" don't appear to be "related" to any known specimens. So from an evolutionary standpoint, anthropologists would say that the "hobbits" evolved from an, as of now, undiscovered species.
"...the ancestor of H. floresiensis was not Homo erectus but instead some other, more primitive, hominin whose dispersal into southeast Asia is still undocumented."
But this doesn't explain the "hobbits'" inordinately small brain size. That's where the hippos come in. Apparently, the study of dwarfed hippos trapped on the island of Madagascar demonstrated just how much environmental isolation could affect a species physical make up. This would be an example of micro-evolution.

For more about this issue from a creation model standpoint see:

"Human or Hobbit?" by Fazale "Fuz" Rana (short article)

"Were the Hobbits Cretins?" by Fazale "Fuz" Rana (short article)

"Tiny Palau Skeletons Suggest Hobbits Were Dwarfs" Science News Flash (March 11, 2008)

Question: So does this mean hominids may not have gone completely extinct until around 13,000 years ago?

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