Friday, April 08, 2016

New proofs Homo floresiensis is separated species

Latest findings confirm the theory that H. floresiensis (also being called Hobbits around the web) is indeed separated from H. sapiens species. Recent study of 40 H. floresiensis teeth compared to 450 from other Homo species, concluded that their teeth are different enough and have characteristics which place them closer to H. erectus, which from his side could be their ancestor.
Facial reconstruction of H. floresiensis Credit:
Facial reconstruction of H. floresiensis Credit: Hominin evolution
The background in short: since the remnants of these diminutive people were found 12 years ago, there were two major competing hypotheses. First is that we are dealing with completely new species in the genus Homo and the second is that we simply found odd variation or deformity, rather then different branch in our evolutionary tree. In my opinion its more likely to think of these people as separated from ours taxonomic clade. The differences are simply too many and it doesn't look very plausible that there were  individuals, who survived until adulthood in the hostile prehistoric environment with such serious condition as microcephali (or any other seriously impairing conditions, which produce similar deformations and small brain).

H. floresiensis were small species in the genus Homo, which means that they are related to us in similar fashion Tigers are related to Lions or Leopards. Two of the most distinctive characteristics are the small size, height being around 0.9-1.1m and weight around 25kg, which measurements are outside the range of human height and weight (possibly closest are the remnants of some island people found in the South Pacific ocean) and small brain, which with estimated 380cm3 is rather in the range of chimpanzee then human, which is several times bigger. And even more fascinating, the brain to body ratio is just above that of the great apes. There were found indication of fire and tool use, which suggest the species were actually well advanced and probably had pretty high cognitive capability. The age of the bones range between 13,000 and 74,000 years, which is pretty long time span for group of creatures living in isolation and may have some serious implications in the evolution and the changes occurring in them. And last, but may be most curious is that on the island Flores were the bones were found the folk tales about Ebu Gogo (something like forest creatures, translated as "Grandmother Glutton") are more prevalent, which may be indication that H. floresiensis probably survived until recent historic times and there may be more rich and recent remnants of them.

Reconstruction of H. floresiensis with contemporary animals Credit: © National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo
The last thing is making me think of the possibility of organising expedition to the island and trying to find more, before it is destroyed or lost. Also if these things were found on this specific island there is good chance that there is more on the other islands in the region. Now why looking for this? Well, as somebody said we as species are very lonely and we not only managed to wipe out most of the species in our biome, but even most of the information is lost. I think we can learn a lot about ourselves if we can find who were our cousins, what happened with them, how they were related to us and how we dealt with them.

Very unlikely, but just imagine, how cool is going to be if we even manage to find alive our cousins...

Read more and sources:
Scientific American
Hominin evolution
The Guardian

Thanks for reading.

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