Feeds

Flores Hobbits were stunted humans

Cretin offspring of normal mothers, say Oz researchers

Intelligent flash storage arrays

A group of Oz researchers has thrown its hat into the Flores "Hobbit" ring by claiming the diminutive inhabitants of the Indonesian island were not a new species at all but rather "cretin offspring of normal mothers".

The first Hobbit skeleton, dating back 15,000 to 18,000 years, turned up in a cave back in 2003. Its discovery provoked a lively debate as to whether it was nothing more than a dwarf human or the hitherto unknown Homo Floresiensis - a descendant of Homo erectus which shrank due to the natural process of "island dwarfing".

New species sceptics suggested the individual - a female dubbed LB1 - may have been a human suffering from microencephaly. Early in 2007, backers of Homo Floresiensis retaliated by presenting a CT scan of LB1's brain cavity, showing she did "did not have the characteristic traits of a microcephalic human".

In September 2007, detailed analysis of the wrist bones of LB1's skeleton showed they were "not quite the same as those of modern humans, and share some characteristics with older human species, and the great apes", something which backed the Homo Floresiensis theory.

However, scientists at the School of Applied Sciences at RMIT University in Melbourne have now claimed LB1 actually suffered cretinism - a condition of "severely stunted physical and mental growth due to a congenital deficiency of thyroid hormones" - provoked by her mother's "iodine and other dietary deficiencies".

The school's Peter Obendorf told Reuters: "We believe they were homo sapiens but with this disorder. The mothers would be iodine and selenium deficient and would be exposed to certain plant food that would release cyanide into the body."

Obendorf noted that LB1's community lived inland, and were therefore deprived of seafood - a good source of iodine. It probably subsisted on bamboo shoots and tubers, which "could have released cyanide into their bodies given the primitive cooking methods they were using".

Obendorf added: "We think the population was normal, but many of the women had goiter. In the middle of a drought, some were forced to eat unsuitable food ... and they had cretin children."

The researchers, whose findings are published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, conclude by noting that "certain structures of the fossils, such as the arm bone, matched descriptions contained in medical literature of cretin skeletons found in Europe, especially Germany and Switzerland".

Obendorf rested his case with: "The dwarf cretins in Europe have just the same structural rotation of the arm bone." ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.