Is it official now? Hobbits as a new species.

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I got the press release last week but I was out in the field and unable to look through the material, but most of the major science news sites have published what is another confirmation about the Hobbit’s status as a new species, rather than a deformed human relation. A new study to be published in Significance suggests once again that the Hobbit skeleton should be classified as a new species rather. If the journal Significance doesn’t ring a bell, it’s also because it’s a statistics journal by the Royal Statistical Society. I’m publishing here the press release by Wiley, along with links to the other news stories that came out over the weekend. Check out all the hobbit news that has come out on SEAArch here.

photo credit: Ryan Somma

“The geometry of hobbits: Homo floresiensis and human evolution.” William Jungers and Karen Baab. Significance; Published Online: November 19, 2009 (DOI: 10.1111/j.1740-9713.2009.00389.x); Print Issue Date: December 2009.

Indonesian ‘hobbits’ are a separate species
The Telegraph, 19 November 2009

‘Hobbits’ Are a New Human Species, According to Statistical Analysis of Fossils
Science Daily, 19 November 2009

The hobbit emerges as a distinct human relative, study contends
Medill Reports, 19 November 2009

Hobbits are indeed a separate species, said researchers
The Prancing Papio, 21 November 2009

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The hobbit’s a new species! Again. Or not.

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You know it’s a sign of hobbit-fatigue when a new claim about the hobbit pops up, and all you can say is, “…uh-huh.” This new claim swings the pendulum back to the “new species” camp, after a new study compared the cranial morphology of the hobbit with a simulated 3D model of a hominid with the same size. The correlations in the 3D model seem to indicate that the hobbit fits the parameters of a small hominid rather than a human, deformed or otherwise.

Of course, this is not the last we are going to hear about the issue. I doubt detractors are going to accept the hobbit-as-a-separate thesis on the basis that the hobbit’s cranium fits the prediction by a computer model. Incidentally, the Journal of Human Evolution has a whole series of papers published around the same time about the Flores skeletons and archaeological material, including descriptions of the Hobbit skeletons.

‘Hobbit’ Fossils Represent A New Species, Concludes Anthropologist
Science Daily, 17 Dec 2008

Size, shape, and asymmetry in fossil hominins: The status of the LB1 cranium based on 3D morphometric analyses
Journal of Human Evolution, 04 December 2008
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