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.
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 â€” 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 â€” 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.