Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hobbits Are Indeed A Separate Species, Said Researchers.

 Researchers from Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York confirmed that the Hobbits, or Homo floresiensis, are indeed a separate "human" species instead of a population of diseases Homo sapiens. The 7th Human Evolution Symposium, Hobbits in the Haystack: Homo floresiensis and Human Evolution was held this year at Stony Brook.

A recent full-body reconstruction of LB1, the ‘little lady of Flores’, by the Parisian paleoartist Elisabeth Daynès. (©2009, S. Plailly/E. Daynès—Reconstruction Atelier Daynès Paris). Photo from The geometry of hobbits: Homo floresiensis and human evolution.

Cranial comparison between LB1 (Homo floresiensis) and modern human. Photo from

Height comparison between modern humans and Homo floresiensis. Illustration from

According to the press release, researchers William Jungers and Karen Baab used statistical analysis on the skeletal remains of LB1 (nicknamed Flo) to determine that Homo floresiensis are indeed a distinct species. A few characteristics of LB1 that makes her and her kind a separate species than modern humans.

  • LB1's cranial capacity is about 400cc, about the same size as a chimpanzee.
  • The skull and jawbone of LB1 is more primitive looking than any normal modern humans.
  • The thigh bone and shin bone of LB1are much shorter compared to modern humans including Central African pygmies, South African KhoeSan (formerly known as 'bushmen") and "negrito" pygmies from the Andaman Islands and the Philippines. Jungers and Baab believe that these are primitive retentions as opposed to island dwarfing.
  • Using a regression equation developed by Jungers, LB1 was about 3 feet, 6 inches (106cm) tall, far smaller than modern human pygmies whose adults grow to less than 4 feet, 11 inches (150cm) tall.

The nearly complete left foot of LB1 next to the right tibia (shin bone, which is ~235 mm long). The foot is relatively very long and has unusual intrinsic proportions; its footprint matches no other species (photo: W. Jungers) The geometry of hobbits: Homo floresiensis and human evolution.

Read more about the Hobbits at The geometry of hobbits: Homo floresiensis and human evolution (Free Wiley Interscience PDF).


Anonymous said...

Off course it is distinct. Why would it take people this long to figure it out

Raymond Vagell said...

Thanks for the comment, Anonymous.

The debate whether Homo floresiensis is distinct or not has been controversial since it's discovery in 2003. However, we just can't be too sure and ample research needs to be done and tested to prove it.

If Homo floresiensis is a distinct species (which it is), there is a huge implication as we will have to re-write our text books and history about human evolution.

Zachary Cofran said...

As weird and interesting as the fossils are, I don't know that text books necessarily need to be rewritten. I don't think it is that earth-shattering that something could become isolated and diverge phenotypically, even if it is so closely related to humans. In any event, I'm not sold on either 'new species' or 'pathology,' not until we get more fossils. One thing that has driven me nuts about this whole hobbit thing is that when Stony Brook invited 'all the experts' to discuss the fossils, they only got those that say it's a new species. That isn't to say it's not a new species, but rather I'd just like to see them cover more bases.

Although, if Flores and Ardi are to teach us anything, it's that the more fossils we have, the weirder and more confusing things become, huh?

Raymond Vagell said...

I think declaring Homo floresiensis as a new species would have us re-examining both Out of Africa theory and the Multiregional hypothesis.

Did H. floresiensis travel out of Africa before H. erectus? Did H. floresiensis evolved from an ancestor that did not lived in Africa, possibly disproving that Africa is the "cradle" of humanity?

You're right Zacharoo. Most, if not all, of the presenters at Stony Brook were for H. floresiensis to be a new species.

Zachary Cofran said...

Hm, that's a good point, I'd forgotten about the first OOA event. Given the current fossil record, I'd be surprised at any hominins earlier than ~1.8 outside Africa. I trust the 1.7ish date for Dmanisi (which are variously 'habiline' and 'erectine'). The 1.8ish dates for the Javanese fossils, though, are much less secure. Then there are those mysterious teeth from China ~1.9, but they may well turn out to be 'mystery apes.' But could still be the case that there was an immodest departure from Africa prior to the H. erectus that we're familiar with today. Touche, Raymond!

Raymond Vagell said...

Don't shoot the messenger! :D

Zachary Cofran said...

Of course not, sorry if I sounded like that!

Raymond Vagell said...

Nah, you didn't. :)

Anonymous said...

If anything, this teaches us that fragmentary hominin fossils can spark more debate the circumspect research on well-known living species (please see PNAS recent publishing records).

somitcw said...

People that claim that they are a mixture of Flores Hobbits and taller people are pictured at:\