Feeds

Human or Hobbit: it is all in the wrist

Were there little people on Flores?

A new approach to endpoint data protection

A fresh analysis of the fossilised skeleton that sparked the Hobbit controversy, has provided more evidence to support the claim that Homo floresiensis is a new species of hominid, the Guardian reports, and not a diseased human with a shrunken and malformed brain.

The skeleton was found on the Indonesian island of Flores back in 2003. Almost immediately scientists split into two camps: the excited and the sceptical.

The first group concluded that a previously unknown species of human had shared the planet with us as recently as 13,000 years ago; while the second believed that the skeleton was more likely that of a small human, probably one suffering from microcephaly, or a form of dwarfism.

The new research - an analysis of the wrist bones of the skeleton - has made the excited scientists even more so. The bones are not quite the same as those of modern humans, and share some characteristics with older human species, and the great apes. The work is published in the journal Science.

"What we are beginning to realise is that our recent evolutionary history is much more diverse than we realised," Matthew Tocheri of the Smithsonian Institution, lead author on the paper, told The Guardian. "It's a little shot to our over-inflated modern human egos."

Researchers have suggested Homo Floresiensis could have evolved from Homo erectus, which was known to live on the island 800,000 years ago. Their diminutive stature could be the result of so-called island dwarfing, a well documented phenomenon whereby a species isolated on an island shrinks or grows dramatically over time.

(Mammals converge on something about the size of a rabbit, apparently the most energy-efficient size for a mammal to be.)

Critics have argued that the brain is too small to be a scaled down Homo erectus, and that tools and other evidence of human like activity were too advanced to be associated with a creature of such small cranial capacity.

But Tocheri says the evidence is now stacking in favour of the Hobbit theory. He describes the wrist bones as the smoking gun that proves the skeleton is not that of a modern human.

The rest of the scientific community is settling down with bags of popcorn to watch the emerging bun fight.

Chris Stringer, an expert on human evolution at the Natural History Museum told the paper: "There is a lot at stake. One group of people are going to be 100% wrong in what they have said, which is a situation that is rare in science.

"It will be a fascinating test case for science. Will the people who turn out to be wrong hold their position to the bitter end regardless of the evidence that accumulates?" ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?