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'Hobbits' Were a Distinct Species, Study Concludes

Skeletal analysis shows Homo floresiensis anatomy differed from modern-day humans

FRIDAY, Nov. 20, 2009 (HealthDay News) --The ancient dwarfs known as "hobbits" weren't humans shrunk down by disease, scientists now say, but instead, they were a distinct human species.

The researchers came to their conclusion by statistically analyzing a female skeleton. They report their findings in the December issue of the journal Significance, the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society.

Scientists discovered fossils of human dwarfs in 2003 on the island of Flores in the Indonesian archipelago. While some hailed the find as the discovery of a new human species, called Homo floresiensis, others said the dwarfs were just ordinary modern humans who suffered from a disease that made them smaller.

In the new study, researchers analyzed the skeleton of a female known as "Little Lady of Flores" or "Flo." They found that her skull's capacity was similar to chimps and early "ape-men," and other features were more primitive than those of modern humans.

The researchers also found that the hobbit humans were much smaller than modern-day pygmies. In a news release from the journal's publisher, researcher Karen Baab, of the Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York, said that "attempts to dismiss the hobbits as pathological people" fail because disease can't explain their "unique anatomy."

More information

Learn more about human evolution from Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

SOURCE: Significance, news release, Nov. 19, 2009
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