Hobbit brains small, but smart

Despite its small size, anthropologist Dean Falk says that the endocast of LB1’s brain indicates complex features similar to humans which may indicate mental capabilities like tool making.

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photo credit: ideonexus

Hobbit brain small, bur organized for complex intelligence

Science News, 03 April 2009

In the strange and contentious world of fossil hobbits, a chimp-sized brain may boast humanlike powers. An analysis of the inner surface of an 18,000-year–old skull assigned to Homo floresiensis, a species also known as hobbits, indicates that this tiny individual possessed a brain blessed with souped-up intellectual capacities needed for activities such as making stone tools, says anthropologist Dean Falk of Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Even as H. floresiensis evolved a relatively diminutive brain, the species underwent substantial neural reorganization that allowed its members to think much like people do, Falk contended on April 2 in a presentation at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists annual meeting. She also reported the findings in a paper published online February 28 in the Journal of Human Evolution.

Falk compared a cast of the cranium’s inner surface, or endocast, obtained from the partial hobbit skeleton LB1 to endocasts from both modern humans and from other fossil skulls in the human evolutionary family, called hominids for short. These casts bring into relief impressions made by various anatomical landmarks on the brain’s surface.

“LB1 reveals that significant cortical reorganization was sustained in ape-sized brains of at least one hominid species,” Falk said.


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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