Researchers from the University of Adelaide are planning a new attempt to extract DNA from the teeth of the Homo floresiensis that, if successful, might just be able to put the debate over whether the Hobbit is a new species or a diseased human being to rest. Previous attempts have been made, unsuccessfully, but the U of A researchers are hoping to use a different technique to extract DNA which basically consists of drilling a tooth at a lower speed. It remains to be seen if there is any DNA left to be extracted, though. Stay tuned, I guess. With any luck, 2011 might be the year this debate gets put to rest.
Researchers to drill for hobbit history
Nature News, 05 January 2011
Scientists are planning an attempt to extract DNA from the ‘hobbit’ Homo floresiensis, the 1-metre-tall extinct distant relative of modern humans that was unearthed in Indonesia, following a study that suggests problems in standard sampling methods in ancient-DNA research could have thwarted previous efforts.
This year, geneticists at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide hope to recover DNA from a roughly 18,000-year-old H. floresiensis tooth, which was excavated in 2009 from the Liang Bua site on the Indonesian island of Flores.
The premolar has been kept cold, and has been handled as little as possible to prevent contamination with modern DNA. But little, if any, of the ancient DNA is likely to have survived the heat and moisture of the tropics, and any that has may be highly fragmented.