The skeletal remains found in a cave on the island of Flores, Indonesia, reported in 2004, do not represent a new species as then claimed, but some of the ancestors of modern human pygmies who live on the island today, according to an international scientific team.
The researchers also demonstrate that the fairly complete skeleton designated LB1 is microcephalic, while other remains excavated from the site share LB1's small stature but show no evidence of microcephaly, since no other brain cases are known. Microcephaly is a condition in which the head and brain are much smaller than average for the person's age and gender. It can be present at birth or develop afterwards and is associated with a complex of other growth and skeletal anomalies.
"Our work documents the real dimensions of human variation here," says Dr. Robert B. Eckhardt, professor of developmental genetics and evolutionary morphology, department of kinesiology, Penn State. He notes that "LB1 looks different if researchers think in terms of European characteristics because it samples a population that is not European, but Australomelanesian, and further because it is a developmentally abnormal individual, being microcephalic."
Teuku Jacob, laboratory of bioanthropology and paleoanthropology, Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia, was granted permission to study the original bones by Radien P. Soejono, National Archaeological Research Center, Jakarta, Indonesia. The analysis by Jacob's full research team, including Eckhardt and others mentioned below, demonstrates that claims of a new species "Homo floresiensis" -- commonly called hobbits, are incorrect.
Jacob and colleagues found four major areas of evidence where the 2004 evaluation was wrong: geographical factors, craniofacial asymmetry, dental traits, and postcranial abnormalities. They discuss these areas in today's (Aug 21) online edition
Contact: A'ndrea Elyse Messer