View Full Version : Indonesian 'Hobbit' Confirmed to Be a New Species

Sunday, March 6th, 2005, 01:04 AM
Researchers verify Flores hobbit as new species of human being

The World Today - Friday, 4 March , 2005 12:18:00
Reporter: Michael Vincent

ELEANOR HALL: It was one of the biggest scientific discoveries ever – the uncovering on the Indonesian island of Flores of a new species of human, quaintly dubbed "the hobbit".

But since Australian scientists announced the find with a research article in Nature in October last year, a controversy has raged about the true nature of the remains, with critics saying the bones are only of a diseased human, not a new relative at all.

But today an independent team of international scientists has published its analysis in the journal Science, saying "the hobbit" is indeed a new species of human being.

Michael Vincent reports.

MICHAEL VINCENT: The Australian scientists who found the so-called hobbit have been nervously waiting today's announcement. Their scientific reputations have been on the line ever since they claimed to have found a new species of human being.

Dr Dean Falk from Florida State University led the team of international experts who examined the hobbit's skull. She used cat-scans to generate a three-dimensional image of the hobbit's brain and compared it to a female human, homo erectus and chimpanzee.

DEAN FALK: When I began researching the brain evolution, I was very sceptical, I have to tell you that, and I came around to realising that they had to struggle with it, that what the brain tells me is they got it right.

MICHAEL VINCENT: And that's a relief to Australian team member Dr Richard Roberts from the University of Wollongong, who dated the original find. He says today's published evidence proves the hobbit is not a deformed human or someone suffering from a brain disorder known as microcephaly.

RICHARD ROBERTS: I think it's a sensational find, and that there are two major conclusions, the first of which is that the brain of the hobbit is completely unlike that of a microcephalic person, this is a deformed person that some people have been claiming that's all the hobbit was, and it's also completely unlike that of a pygmy, a modern pygmy.

So it's certainly not that of a modern human who's either very small or has got a condition called microcephaly. But it does have features that are incredibly interesting, because they've got a very well developed frontal lobe.

MICHAEL VINCENT: But the controversy doesn't end here. Critics of this today's published investigation claim Dr Falk and her team didn't compare apples with apples, that is they didn't use a skull with the correct example of the brain disorder known as microcephaly.

It's a claim Dr Falk rejects.

DEAN FALK: What we say is this was not a paper which was doing the be-all and end-all of secondary microcephaly, which is a very nebulous catch-all term, by the way, and really the burden of proof on those people who say oh it's a microcephalic is hey, go out there, do a scientific study, and now we offer you some new information with which to form a testable hypothesis.

MICHAEL VINCENT: And Dr Richard Roberts also issues the same challenge to his critics.

RICHARD ROBERTS: It's really time to sort of put up or shut up in that regard. Now with their backs to the wall I think it's time for them to put everything they think down on paper, and we can decide whether it actually stands up scientifically or not.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Why is it so important to publish in a scientific journal if you're an academic?

RICHARD ROBERTS: Well, it's easier to talk to the media, and you can sort of waft around and change your opinion fairly freely, but in the scientific literature, once you've put your position down, people can grill it, they can look at it extensively, evaluate what you've said and say well this doesn't make sense, or this is inconsistent with known evidence.

It's really like going into a boxing fight. There's lots of, you know, 'I'm the greatest, I'm the greatest' at the outset, but the bottom line is you want to get into the ring and show what you're actually made of. And that's the way it is with science.

You can talk about it, but then you've really got to put your meat down in the paper and say this is really what we believe to be the case, and at the present time they haven't done that at all.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Dr Roberts is still open to the possibility his team may be wrong. There is one last challenge for the scientists who found the hobbit to prove its origins as conclusively as possible – DNA.

RICHARD ROBERTS: What was the ancient DNA like of this type of extinct human? If it turns out to be modern human DNA, that would be an absolutely staggering finding, because you have to say well, how can that be so, how can we have modern DNA look completely unlike us with a brain completely unlike ours?

That would be a serious fly in the ointment, so we do want to do DNA analysis of our own on the skeletal material. That will be the final nail in the coffin for the microcephaly argument.

ELEANOR HALL: Dr Richard Roberts from the University of Wollongong speaking to Michael Vincent.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/con...5/s1316120.htm (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.abc. net.au%2Fworldtoday%2Fcontent%2F2005%2Fs 1316120.htm)

Sunday, March 6th, 2005, 01:15 AM
Mar. 5, 2005. 01:00 AM

Was this small brain able to think big?


Remember Flores man (actually a woman)? Flores "person" is a skeleton that was found last year on the island of Flores in Indonesia. It was a sensational discovery then, but has been made even more exciting this week with revelations about his brain.

This new species appeared to live as recently as 13,000 years ago and stood only about a metre tall. There hadn't been a hominid that small on the Earth for millions of years. But despite its small brain, it appeared to have used stone tools and controlled fire. In other words, small-brained or not, it was smart.

The discovery raised all kinds of questions. Where did this creature come from? The only sensible idea seemed to be that it had descended from Homo erectus, an ancestor of ours practically as big as we are. The theory was that some Homo erectus individuals migrated to the island, and over time shrank due to the well-known effect that tends to reduce the size of mammals that are island-bound.

But if that was the case, how was Flores man able to retain its intelligence in the face of a dramatic reduction in brain size? Does that mean it's possible to stay smart with less brain?

That wasn't the only controversy. Teuku Jacob, the grand old man of Indonesian archeology, examined the skull and immediately proclaimed it to be a fully modern human suffering from microcephaly, a disorder of development that leaves the skull, and the brain within, shrunken and deformed. According to Jacob, it was anything but a new species.

The report, published Thursday, addresses this very criticism and concludes that Jacob was wrong, that Flores man was not a microcephalic and does indeed bear a strong resemblance to Homo erectus, but with some surprising differences.

Dr. Dean Falk of Florida State University came to those conclusions by analyzing virtual endocasts of a variety of skulls, including a microcephalic, Homo erectus, modern human and Flores. Endocasts are usually made by pouring liquid rubber into a skull. When the rubber hardens, it bears the imprint of marks on the inside of the skull that were left there by the brain. The endocast is a surrogate for the original brain.

In this case, the Flores skull was so fragile that the researchers were forced to resort to a virtual endocast made by scanning the inside of the skull. Falk says the resulting "brain" was one of the most surprising she has ever seen (see image at right).

First, and most important, it is radically different from the microcephalic specimen she compared it to. This isn't a conclusive denial of Jacob's claim that Flores is nothing new — one skull isn't enough — but Flores and the microcephalic are so different it's hard to imagine how they could be one and the same.

What's more interesting is the comparison of Flores with Homo erectus, the species that was suggested to have been its ancestor. The two brains are worlds apart in size: Flores's brain is less than half the volume of the Homo erectus brain (and less than a third as big as a modern human brain). Even so, Falk was shocked to discover that this tiny brain had very well developed frontal lobes, parts of the brain that are, at least in us, associated with complex thinking and planning.

So, although the Flores brain was small, even by the standards of hundreds of thousands of years ago, it looks modern. Not as modern as our brains, but more advanced in some ways than Homo erectus, the species from which it is supposed to have evolved.

But did it? In the light of these new insights into the brain, Falk and the Australian archeologists who discovered Flores are stressing that there is another possibility: Flores man and Homo erectus might both have descended from an as-yet-undiscovered small-brained, small- bodied ancestor. That creature's descendants would have split into the two species, one small, one tall.

There's talk of searching on other Indonesian islands for the remains of that hypothetical ancestor, or for more Flores man. It's an exciting time, partly because the human family tree is branching out wildly in all directions, partly because these new fossils are raising new questions about brain size and intelligence.

How smart can a small brain be?

source (http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1109976609089&call_pageid=970599119419)

Dr. Solar Wolff
Sunday, March 6th, 2005, 05:21 AM
The fact that Flores man had a brain half of the size of erectus means absolutely nothing. This is what would be expected. It is called allometry. This means that there is a correlation between body size and brain size. This correlation works on two levels. First, it works for mammals. Large bodied mammals have large brains as in the elephant, for instance. Second, it works within the species. Large people have large brains. Sometimes, it works better than others. For instance, in Caucasians the allometric correlation if very good while in Negros it is not that good. This explains why some big Negro athletes have small heads. But for individuals within a species, the relationship between brain size and intelligence is not that strong. So, we really can't judge a person's intelligence by their brain size. The sub-specific level seems to be half-way. For instance Caucasoids and Mongoloids have bigger brains, on average, than do Negros and Australiods. We also think of Caucasoids and Mongoloids as being smarter than their small-brained co-inhabitants of this planet.

Flores man (or woman) should have a smaller brain and because of the reduction, there should be some alteration in the proportions of the parts of the brain.

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007, 12:11 AM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The tiny woman dubbed the Hobbit who lived 18,000 years ago on a remote Indonesian island deserves to be deemed a new human species and not a deformed modern human as sceptics assert, researchers said on Monday.

In the latest salvo in a heated scientific shootout, an international team led by Florida State University anthropologist Dean Falk compared the Hobbit's skull to those of nine people with microcephaly, a rare condition in which the head is abnormally small due to improper brain development.

They concluded the 3-foot-tall (1-metre) adult woman had a highly evolved brain, unlike that of a microcephalic person, confirming she belongs to the proposed extinct species Homo floresiensis, closely related to modern Homo sapiens.

"Lo and behold, it doesn't look anything like a microcephalic. In fact, it's antithetical," Falk said in an interview, rebutting scientists like primatologist Robert Martin of the Field Museum in Chicago who suggest the skull came from a person with microcephaly.

A previous study by Falk had been criticized because it compared the Hobbit, with a brain a third the size of modern people, to just a single microcephalic skull.

Martin remained unconvinced. "My gut feeling is what they (Falk's team) did is just played around with the measurements until they got something that suited them," Martin said.

Martin said the new study was flawed, questioned whether Falk's team knew enough about microcephaly and insisted the question of a separate species is unresolved.

The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Michael Morwood, part of the group that discovered the remains, is a co-author.


Scientists in 2003 found the bones in a cave on the island of Flores east of Bali, contending they were a previously unknown species living at a time the species Homo sapiens was thought to have been the world's only human inhabitant.

These little people -- bones from several other individuals also were found -- lived in a wondrous place populated by strange animals like pygmy elephants and large rodents. In this isolated locale, evolutionary forces stemming from limited resources may have pushed some inhabitants towards dwarfism and others towards gigantism.

Tools and evidence of fire were found near the bones of the adult female, dubbed the Hobbit after the small people in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Falk's team compared three-dimensional, computer-generated reconstructions of the brain of the Hobbit to those of nine microcephalics from all over the world and 10 normal people.

Two features in the frontal lobes and a structure called the cerebellum separated the two groups, with the Flores woman fitting in with normal humans, not microcephalics, the study found. But she was unlike modern humans in four other features distinguishing her from Homo sapiens, crying out for recognition as a separate species, the researchers said.

Falk said the origin of this new species is now the key question, adding she is open to the possibility it descended from Australopithecenes, ape-like human ancestors, or was a dwarf form of the extinct species Homo erectus.

Martin said it is possible it is a new species. "But the other strong possibility is that this is actually just a pathological modern human," Martin added.

"At the end of the day, hopefully, the truth will come out," Martin added. "And I'm not mad enough to think I'm right about everything. But there are ways of doing it and ways of not doing it."

Source: http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/articlenews.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2007-01-29T224226Z_01_N29192563_RTRUKOC_0_UK-HOBBIT-SPECIES.xml&pageNumber=1&imageid=&cap=&sz=13&WTModLoc=NewsArt-C1-ArticlePage1

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007, 04:57 PM
The Hobbit has forced a re-think of human evolution
The tiny skeletal remains of human "Hobbits" found on an Indonesian island belong to a completely new branch of our family tree, a study has found. The finds caused a sensation when they were announced to the world in 2004.
But some researchers argued the bones belonged to a modern human with a combination of small stature and a brain disorder called microcephaly.
That claim is rejected by the latest study, which compares the tiny people with modern microcephalics.

Microcephaly is a rare pathological condition in humans characterised by a small brain and cognitive impairment.
In the new study, Dean Falk, of Florida State University, and her colleagues say the remains are those of a completely separate human species: Homo floresiensis.
They have published their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The remains at the centre of the Hobbit controversy were discovered at Liang Bua, a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, in 2003.
Researchers found one near-complete skeleton, which they named LB1, along with the remains of at least eight other individuals...

...The researchers believe the 1m-tall (3ft) people evolved from an unknown small-bodied, small-brained ancestor, which they think became small in stature to cope with the limited supply of food on the island.
The little humans are thought to have survived until about 12,000 years ago, when a volcanic eruption devastated the region.

LB1 possessed a brain size of around 400 cubic cm (24 cu inches) - about the same as that of a chimp.

Long arms, a sloping chin and other primitive features suggested affinities to ancient human species such as Homo habilis....


Thursday, May 7th, 2009, 08:50 PM
Source: Telegraph (UK) (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/indonesia/5288312/Indonesian-hobbit-confirmed-to-be-a-new-species.html) (3-7-09)
Half-size humans whose remains were found on the remote Indonesian island of Flores in 2003 have been confirmed to be a new species, and not modern pygmies whose brains had shrivelled with disease.

Since the discovery of Homo floresiensis - dubbed "the hobbit" due to its size - anthropologists have argued over the identity and origins of the cave-dwellers.

Measuring just three feet high and weighing 65 pounds, the tiny, tool-making hunters may have roamed the island as recently as 8,000 years ago.

Only more fossil evidence will tell us whether the hobbits of Flores evolved from Homo erectus, whose traces have been found throughout Eurasia, or from an even more ancient lineage whose footsteps have not yet been traced outside Africa, he said.

More... (http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/hnn/zxkz/~3/LXxo4cqVEzY/82830.html)