New study suggests H. floresiensis is a deformed human

Once again reviving the debate over the nature of the Flores hominid, a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences compares skull scans from various samples, including microcephalic humans and other hominids, and suggest that the H. floresiensis is a microcephalic human rather than a separate species.

Homo floresiensis skull, wikicommons

Taking the measure of a hobbit
Science News, 08 August 2011

‘Hobbit’ just a deformed human?
Nature, 08 August 2011

Craniometric ratios of microcephaly and LB1, Homo floresiensis, using MRI and endocasts
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 08 August 2011
doi:10.1073/pnas.1105585108
Continue reading “New study suggests H. floresiensis is a deformed human”

New book on the Flores hominid

A book review on the latest book about the Flores Hominid, also nicknamed the Hobbit, written by Mike Morwood, one of the archaeologists who discovered the remarkable find in 2003.

23 May 2007 (stuff.co.nz) – A book review on the latest book about the Flores Hominid, also nicknamed the Hobbit, written by Mike Morwood, one of the archaeologists who discovered the remarkable find in 2003.

The discovery of the Hobbit

The Discovery of the Hobbit – Mike Morwood and Penny Van Oosterzee

Long after homo sapiens invented art, porn and sailing, another kind of human scampered about in Indonesian forests.

We know this because a team led by one of the writers of this fascinating book, Australian archaeologist Mike Morwood, discovered the creature’s skeleton in 2003, in a cave on the remote island of Flores.

Since then, bones belonging to at least eight more individuals have been found, ranging in age from 95,000 to 12,000 years old. Our own species has been alive for at least 100,000 years, in case you were wondering.

This theory has not gone away, despite Morwood’s team finding more tiny individuals separated widely in time. He is not the only one to point out that it seems unlikely a race of imbeciles could survive so long on an island swarming with meat-eating lizards three times bigger than they were, although he needs to find another skull to prove his point.

A few of the proponents of the microcephalic theory have axes to grind and Jacob is accused, sensationally, of grabbing then damaging the hobbits’ bones. The fog of war has been compounded by Indonesian v Australian politico- cultural complexities and newspapers that have given equal time to every theory, whether it met the test of peer review or not.

This book is timely. It clarifies events which have been glossed over in other media, including damage done to the only extant hobbit skull, a jawbone and a pelvis. Although neither Morwood nor fellow writer Penny Van Oosterzee could be confused with Tolstoy, the book is intelligent, pacey and evocative.

Read the full review of The Discovery of the Hobbit here.

Some other books about the Flores hominid you might be interested in:
A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the “Hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia by M. Morwood and P. van Oosterzee
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg

Small skull, huge controversy

Research|Penn State, an online magazine by the Pennsylvana State University has an interesting feature-length article on Dr Bob Eckhart, who leads the charge in debunking the Hobbit myth. While SEAArch has covered plenty in the news about homo floresiensis, this article presents an in-depth look at the arguments against the Hobbit theory and is worth a read for anyone following the story.

c. 23 April 2007 (Research|Penn State) Research|Penn State, an online magazine by the Pennsylvana State University has an interesting feature-length article on Dr Bob Eckhart, who leads the charge in debunking the Hobbit myth. While SEAArch has covered plenty in the news about homo floresiensis, this article presents an in-depth look at the arguments against the Hobbit theory and is worth a read for anyone following the story.

Homo Floresiensis by Bob Eckhart

Small skull, huge controversy

In October 2004, while working in his lab, Bob Eckhardt heard a report on National Public Radio: A team of archaeologists had unearthed bones of a three-foot-tall humanlike creature on the island of Flores in Indonesia. Based on the shape and size of the skull and other skeletal remains, the archaeologists, led by Michael J. Morwood of the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, claimed they had discovered a new species of human.

The diminutive biped had a cranium no larger than a chimpanzee’s, yet its bones had been found along with abundant stone tools. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal in the same stratum, along with luminescence dating of surrounding sediments, implied that the skeleton was only 18,000 years old. Considering other earlier archaeological finds on Flores, Morwood and his colleagues concluded that a new human species had evolved from a preceding population of Homo erectus that had been isolated for over 840,000 years on Flores, in the archipelago between Asia and Australia.

Eckhardt, a professor of developmental genetics and evolutionary morphology in Penn State’s department of kinesiology, added it up. Three feet tall. A tiny brain. Complex stone tools. Evolved in complete isolation in 40,000 generations. He says: “It just didn’t ring true.”

Eckhardt read the scientific papers, published in the British journal Nature, setting forth the findings and conclusions of Morwood’s group. “A lot of things didn’t make sense,” he says. “For instance, the overall height seemed to be off. I took the long-bone measurements from the paper and plugged them into standard regression formulas.” Where Morwood and colleagues estimated an overall height of 1.06 meters for their specimen, Eckhardt came up with figures ranging from 1.15 to 1.33 meters, with an average of 1.25 meters—more than seven inches taller than Morwood’s estimate. Eckhardt also wondered about the proximity of the small cranium to sophisticated stone tools, including points, perforators, blades, and microblades. Over a century of research by anthropologists has established a rough correlation between an increasing brain size and advances in stone-tool technology. The kinds of tools described in the Nature article matched those made elsewhere by Homo sapiens. Says Eckhardt, “It seemed very unlikely that a human with a chimp-sized brain would have invented such tools independently and in total isolation.”


Related Books:
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg

FSU anthropologist confirms 'Hobbit' indeed a separate species

A new development in the Hobbit debate, paleoneurologist Dean Falk from Florida State University concluded that the Hobbit is indeed a new species, rather than a human with microcephaly. This conclusion was made by making comparisons of the brain casts between human, microcephalic and hobbit specimens.

30 January 2007 (Eureka Alerts, BBC) – A new development in the Hobbit debate, paleoneurologist Dean Falk from Florida State University concluded that the Hobbit is indeed a new species, rather than a human with microcephaly. This conclusion was made by making comparisons of the brain casts between human, microcephalic and hobbit specimens.

BBC, 30 Jan 2007
Comparisons between a microcephalic (left) and the Hobbit (right)
(Image: Kirk E. Smith, Electronic Radiology Laboratory, Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology)

FSU anthropologist confirms ‘Hobbit’ indeed a separate species

After the skeletal remains of an 18,000-year-old, Hobbit-sized human were discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, some scientists thought that the specimen must have been a pygmy or a microcephalic — a human with an abnormally small skull.

Not so, said Dean Falk, a world-renowned paleoneurologist and chair of Florida State University’s anthropology department, who along with an international team of experts created detailed maps of imprints left on the ancient hominid’s braincase and concluded that the so-called Hobbit was actually a new species closely related to Homo sapiens.

Now after further study, Falk is absolutely convinced that her team was right and that the species cataloged as LB1, Homo floresiensis, is definitely not a human born with microcephalia — a somewhat rare pathological condition that still occurs today. Usually the result of a double-recessive gene, the condition is characterized by a small head and accompanied by some mental retardation.

In this latest study, the researchers compared 3-D, computer-generated reconstructions of nine microcephalic modern human brains and 10 normal modern human brains. They found that certain shape features completely separate the two groups and that Hobbit classifies with normal humans rather than microcephalic humans in these features. In other ways, however, Hobbit’s brain is unique, which is consistent with its attribution to a new species.

Comparison of two areas in the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe and the back of the brain show the Hobbit brain is nothing like a microcephalic’s and is advanced in a way that is different from living humans. In fact, the LB1 brain was the “antithesis” of the microcephalic brain, according to Falk, a finding the researchers hope puts this part of the Hobbit controversy to rest.


Related Books:
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg

Flores hominid: New species or microcephalic dwarf?

A new study in The Anatomical Record, the journal of American Association of Anatomists strongly suggest that the Flores Man is not a new species of human being, but in fact a Homo Sapiens with microcephaly.

9 October 2006 (The Anatomical Record) – A new study in The Anatomical Record, the journal of American Association of Anatomists strongly suggests that the Flores Man is not a new species of human being, but in fact a Homo Sapiens with microcephaly. Abstract is printed below, subscription required for full access.

Flores hominid: New species or microcephalic dwarf?

The proposed new hominid Homo floresiensis is based on specimens from cave deposits on the Indonesian island Flores. The primary evidence, dated at 18,000 y, is a skull and partial skeleton of a very small but dentally adult individual (LB1). Incomplete specimens are attributed to eight additional individuals. Stone tools at the site are also attributed to H. floresiensis. The discoverers interpreted H. floresiensis as an insular dwarf derived from Homo erectus, but others see LB1 as a small-bodied microcephalic Homo sapiens. Study of virtual endocasts, including LB1 and a European microcephalic, purportedly excluded microcephaly, but reconsideration reveals several problems. The cranial capacity of LB1 ( 400 cc) is smaller than in any other known hominid < 3.5 Ma and is far too small to derive from Homo erectus by normal dwarfing. By contrast, some associated tools were generated with a prepared-core technique previously unknown for H. erectus, including bladelets otherwise associated exclusively with H. sapiens. The single European microcephalic skull used in comparing virtual endocasts was particularly unsuitable. The specimen was a cast, not the original skull (traced to Stuttgart), from a 10-year-old child with massive pathology. Moreover, the calotte does not fit well with the rest of the cast, probably being a later addition of unknown history. Consideration of various forms of human microcephaly and of two adult specimens indicates that LB1 could well be a microcephalic Homo sapiens. This is the most likely explanation for the incongruous association of a small-brained recent hominid with advanced stone tools.


Related Books:
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg

The Official Hobbit Article

23 August 2006 (Proceedings from the National Academy of Science of the United States of America) – The article is finally out (and better yet, it’s on open access!) The article itself is extremely technical, so if you’re not that inclined, check out the related links for a list of summaries (including a new entry from Scientific American).

Pygmoid Australomelanesian Homo sapiens skeletal remains from Liang Bua, Flores: Population affinities and pathological abnormalities

T. Jacob, E. Indriati, R. P. Soejono, K. Hsü, D. W. Frayer, R. B. Eckhardt, A. J. Kuperavage, A. Thorne, and M. Henneberg

Liang Bua 1 (LB1) exhibits marked craniofacial and postcranial asymmetries and other indicators of abnormal growth and development. Anomalies aside, 140 cranial features place LB1 within modern human ranges of variation, resembling Australomelanesian populations. Mandibular and dental features of LB1 and LB6/1 either show no substantial deviation from modern Homo sapiens or share features (receding chins and rotated premolars) with Rampasasa pygmies now living near Liang Bua Cave. We propose that LB1 is drawn from an earlier pygmy H. sapiens population but individually shows signs of a developmental abnormality, including microcephaly. Additional mandibular and postcranial remains from the site share small body size but not microcephaly.


Related Books:
A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the “Hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia by M. Morwood and P. van Oosterzee
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg

Hobbit Debate Turns Nasty

A follow up from the previous press release describing the Hobbit debate.

22 August 2006 (ABC News in Science) – A follow up from the previous press release describing the Hobbit debate. Am still waiting for the article to appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (delay probably due to time difference).

Hobbit Debate Turns Nasty

A new paper has inflamed the debate over the hobbit’s origins, with one researcher criticising the scientific journal that published the research.

A paper in today’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) is the second this year to conclude that the hobbit is just a sick human.

Indonesian researcher Professor Teuku Jacob, from Gadjah Mada University, and an international team argue that the hobbit is a microcephalic pygmy rather than a new species of hominid.


Related Books:
A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the “Hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia by M. Morwood and P. van Oosterzee
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg

Hobbit theory under fire

The theory of the Hobbit man, or Homo floresiensis is under debate now as primatologist Robert Martin questions if this is not a new species, but instead a modern human suffering from microcephaly which results in small body and brain size.

19 May 2006 (Science, but also in too many other media) – The theory of the Hobbit man, or Homo floresiensis is under debate now as primatologist Robert Martin questions if this is not a new species, but instead a modern human suffering from microcephaly which results in small body and brain size. The actual article from Science is very technical:

Response to Comment on “The Brain of LB1, Homo floresiensis

Martin et al. claim that they have two endocasts from microcephalics that appear similar to that of LB1, Homo floresiensis. However, the line drawings they present as evidence lack details about the transverse sinuses, cerebellum, and cerebral poles. Comparative measurements, actual photographs, and sketches that identify key features are needed to draw meaningful conclusions about Martin et al.’s assertions.