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FSU anthropologist leads incredible journey through 'hobbit' brain

el -- based on computer tomography (CT) data gathered in Indonesia. Falk also created a physical endocast out of latex. Together they provided a detailed map of imprints left on LB1's braincase that corresponded to the once-living organ's shape, grooves, vessels and sinuses.

"I thought the Homo floresiensis brain would look like a chimp's," Falk said. "I was wrong. There were fancier things on LB1's brain."

The endocasts revealed a surprising and significant swelling of the frontal lobe, along with other anatomical features consistent with higher cognitive processes. Those features, which correlate to initiative-taking and advanced planning, might explain the tools and signs of cooperative activities in LB1's cave despite the primitive size of its brain.

Researchers verified blood vessels and other markings to make sure they were relevant brain components and not simply artifacts left by a post-mortem impact. The intricate images were compared to other endocasts from a variety of sources such as chimpanzees, an adult female Homo erectus, a contemporary woman, an adult female pygmy and a microcephalic -- a human with an abnormally small skull.

Falk contends that her team's exhaustive analysis refutes skeptics' suppositions that Homo floresiensis was either a pygmy or a microcephalic. "The scaling of brain to body isn't at all what we'd expect to find in pygmies, and the shape is all wrong to be a microcephalic. This is something new."

The brain study supports the notion that the evolution of Homo floresiensis, a new species but closely related to Homo erectus, either reflected island dwarfing in response to limited food supplies or indicated that the two species may have shared an unknown, small-bodied and small-brained ancestor.

Co-authors include Falk, FSU; Charles Hildebolt, Kirk Smith, Barry Brunsden and Fred Prior, Mallinckrod
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3-Mar-2005


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