Thursday, April 30, 2009

Study of 'hobbits' draws scientists to 'heretical speculation'

Remember the 'hobbits?" Back in 2003, scientists unearthed the remains of tiny hominids (about a third the size of humans) in Indonesia. Dubbed "hobbits", science has struggled to classify them (are they an early human, a separate lineage, an offshoot of humans). In fact, "the more scientists study the specimens and their implications, the more they are drawn to heretical speculation." (NY Times)

These things are strange. Although small, hobbits (homo floresiensis) "had a peculiar gait obviating long-distance running." And despite their small brains, "they made stone tools similar to those produced by other hominids."

Previously, the leading theory to explain the hobbits was a developmental disorder (the "sick hobbit" hypothesis). But some contend there is "no know disease or abnormality in humans" that could account for the hobbits condition.

The problem is that the hobbits seem to appear after homo sapiens swept through the area. So did they "reverse evolve" from humans? Were they victims of "island dwarfing" ("a recognized phenomenon in which larger species diminish in size over time in response to limited resources")?

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.