New study suggests Hobbit was a person with Down syndrome

A new study in PNAS suggests that Homo floresiensis may not be a new species, but the skeletal features resemble a normal human with Down syndrome. This one is bound to be controversial for sure!

Flores

Evolved developmental homeostasis disturbed in LB1 from Flores, Indonesia, denotes Down syndrome and not diagnostic traits of the invalid species Homo floresiensis
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 04 August 2014
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1407382111

The “hobbit” human not a separate species, say scientists
Popular Archaeology, 04 August 2014

Flores bones show features of Down syndrome, not a new ‘Hobbit’ human
Science Daily, 04 August 2014

‘Hobbit’ had Down syndrome
The Australian, 05 August 2014

Did the ‘Hobbit’ have Down syndrome?
ABC Science, 05 August 2014

The population that has become known as Homo floresiensis has been described as “the most extreme human ever discovered.” Specimen LB1 from Liang Bua Cave is unusual, but craniofacial and postcranial characteristics originally said to be diagnostic of the new species are not evident in the other more fragmentary skeletons in the sample that resemble other recent small-bodied human populations in the region (including the Andaman Islands, Palau, and Flores itself). Here we demonstrate that the facial asymmetry, small endocranial volume, brachycephaly, disproportionately short femora, flat feet, and numerous other characteristics of LB1 are highly diagnostic of Down syndrome, one of the most commonly occurring developmental disorders in humans and also documented in related hominoids such as chimpanzees and orangutans.

Full story article here (open access)

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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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