Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More on the 'Hobbit'

This time from the Independent.

The hobbit: was it a work of fiction?
The three-foot tall creature was hailed as a new species of human. Now research casts doubt on the claim.

By Steve Connor
Published: 22 August 2006

It is either the most important discovery in human evolution for decades, or one of the biggest blunders of modern science - and there's not much room for anything in between.

She was either a new species of miniature "Hobbit-like" human, just three feet tall, who lived 18,000 years ago on a remote Indonesian island among giant rats, pygmy elephants and massive, dragon-like reptiles. Or she was just another member of our own species - Homo sapiens - who was unfortunate enough to suffer from a severe congenital disorder that meant she developed an unusually small braincase, stunted body and shortened limbs.

If the latter is ever proved to be the case, it will come as a huge embarrassment to the scientists behind a study published in the journal Nature in 2004, claiming that Homo floresiensis truly represents a new species of miniature human being.

The latest salvo in the dispute over the bones has come in a study published in the current issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, which backs up claims that the "hobbit" is nothing more than a small-brained member of our own species.

The authors of the study claim that the original assessment of the remains was wrong, and that there is no evidence for the existence of a miniature species of human who hunted pygmy rats and who was in turn hunted by giant Komodo dragons.


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