A new paper published in BMC Biology may possibly reconcile the small size of the Hobbit’s brain with tool use – one of the arguments against the hobbit being a new species as it is assumed that for something as sophisticated as tool use – you’d need a pretty big brain. The study by Montgomery et al looked at the brain and body size of over 50 primate species indicate that while both brain and body size tend to grow with time, there is sufficient evidence to show that the opposite is also true, ie, shrinkage also does occur in some cases. So it looks like that it is possible for the Hobbit to have evolved to be smaller, thus strengthening the hypothesis that it’s a new species rather than a deformed human.
Reconstructing the ups and downs of primate brain evolution: implications for adaptive hypotheses and Homo floresiensis
BMC Biology 2010, 8:9doi:10.1186/1741-7007-8-9
Is the Hobbit’s Brain Unfeasibly Small?
Science Daily, 27 January 2010
Reduced Brain Size of Homo floresiensis Hints at Her Likely Ancestors
Anthropology.net, 28 January 2010