FLORES MAN -- DUBBED HOBBITS -- MAY NOT BE IN THE HUMAN LINE SAYS A NEW STUDY
Fossils of Homo floresiensis—dubbed "the hobbits" due to their tiny stature—were discovered on the island of Flores in 2003 have been controversial ever since their discovery as to whether they are an unknown branch of early humans or specimens of modern man deformed by disease.
The new study, based on an analysis of the skull bones, shows once and for all that the pint-sized people were not Homo sapiens, according to the researchers.
Until now, academic studies have pointing in one direction or another—and scientific discourse has sometimes tipped over into acrimony. One school of thought holds that so-called Flores Man descended from the larger Homo erectus and became smaller over hundreds of generations.
An adult hobbit stood a meter (three feet) tall, and weighed about 25 kilos (55 pounds). Similarly, Flores Island was also home to a miniature race of extinct, elephant-like creatures called Stegodon.
But other researchers argue that H. floresiensis was in fact a modern human whose tiny size and small brain—no bigger than a grapefruit—was caused by a genetic disorder. One suspect was dwarf cretinism, sometimes brought on by a lack of iodine. Another potential culprit was microcephaly, which shrivels not just the brain and its boney envelope.
Weighing in with a new approach, published in the Journal of Human Evolution, a pair of scientists in France used high-tech tools to re-examine the layers of the "hobbit" skull.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-02-mystery-hobbits-humans.html#jCp