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.
â€œThe geometry of hobbits: Homo floresiensis and human evolution.â€ 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
â€œHobbitsâ€ are a New Human Species â€“ According to the Statistical Analysis of Fossils
Homo floresiensis Not Diseased Sub-Population of Healthy Humans
Researchers from Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York have confirmed that Homo floresiensis is a genuine ancient human species and not a descendant of healthy humans dwarfed by disease. Using statistical analysis on skeletal remains of a well-preserved female specimen, researchers determined the â€œhobbitâ€ to be a distinct species and not a genetically flawed version of modern humans. Details of the study appear in the December issue of Significance, the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society, published by Wiley-Blackwell.
In 2003 Australian and Indonesian scientists discovered small-bodied, small-brained, hominin (human-like) fossils on the remote island of Flores in the Indonesian archipelago. This discovery of a new human species called Homo floresiensis has spawned much debate with some researchers claiming that the small creatures are really modern humans whose tiny head and brain are the result of a medical condition called microcephaly.
Researchers William Jungers, Ph.D., and Karen Baab, Ph.D. studied the skeletal remains of a female (LB1), nicknamed â€œLittle Lady of Floresâ€ or â€œFloâ€ to confirm the evolutionary path of the hobbit species. The specimen was remarkably complete and included skull, jaw, arms, legs, hands, and feet that provided researchers with integrated information from an individual fossil.
The cranial capacity of LB1 was just over 400 cm, making it more similar to the brains of a chimpanzee or bipedal â€œape-menâ€ of East and South Africa. The skull and jawbone features are much more primitive looking than any normal modern human. Statistical analysis of skull shapes show modern humans cluster together in one group, microcephalic humans in another and the hobbit along with ancient hominins in a third.
Due to the relative completeness of fossil remains for LB1, the scientists were able to reconstruct a reliable body design that was unlike any modern human. The thigh bone and shin bone of LB1 are much shorter than modern humans including Central African pygmies, South African KhoeSan (formerly known as â€˜bushmenâ€) and â€œnegritoâ€ pygmies from the Andaman Islands and the Philippines. Some researchers speculate this could represent an evolutionary reversal correlated with â€œisland dwarfing.â€ â€œIt is difficult to believe an evolutionary change would lead to less economical movement,â€ said Dr. Jungers. â€œIt makes little sense that this species re-evolved shorter thighs and legs because long hind limbs improve bipedal walking. We suspect that these are primitive retentions instead.â€
Further analysis of the remains using a regression equation developed by Dr. Jungers indicates that LB1 was approximately 106 cm tall (3 feet, 6 inches)â€”far smaller than the modern pygmies whose adults grow to less than 150 cm (4 feet, 11 inches). A scatterplot depicts LB1 far outside the range of Southeast Asian and African pygmies in both absolute height and body mass indices. â€œAttempts to dismiss the hobbits as pathological people have failed repeatedly because the medical diagnoses of dwarfing syndromes and microcephaly bear no resemblance to the unique anatomy of Homo floresiensis,â€ noted Dr. Baab.