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IceDragon
06-04-2006, 05:08 AM
Just in case people thought scientists were always in agreement... ;)


PARIS (AFP) - Anthropologists have traded new blows over the remains of dwarf humans whose discovery on a remote Indonesian island blasted a hole in theories about the Ascent of Man.

Dubbed "hobbits" after the wee folk of J.R.R. Tolkien's tale, the hominids, discovered in 2003, measured only about a metre (3.25 feet) tall and had a skull about the size of a grapefruit.

The bones of at least nine individuals were found in a cave in the island of Flores, lying in sediments carbon-dated to around 18,000 years old. Near these remains were sophisticated stone tools and butchered animals, including a now-extinct miniature elephant.

Their discoverers claim the hominid, which they have honoured as Homo floresiensis, was a separate species of human who descended from Homo erectus, which is also the ancestor of modern man.

That assertion ignited a fierce row.

If true, it would mean that Homo sapiens, who has been around for 150,000-200,000 years, would have shared the planet with rival humans far more recently than anyone had thought.

And it would raise the vexing question as to whether H. sapiens and H. floresiensis interbred, which would presumably have left "hobbit" genes in our genetic code today.

In the past months, the scientific journals have blazed with debate. The exchange has sometimes seethed with barbed accusations about denial of access to the Liang Bua cave and to the now-famous fossils themselves.

Three weeks ago, primatologists led by Robert Martin of the highly regarded Field Museum in Chicago savaged the Flores claims as "media hype" and -- the thermonuclear insult in anthropology -- as bad science.

Martin said the Flores hominids were not a separate species but quite simply Homo sapiens who suffered from a pathological condition called microcephaly, which results in a small brain and body.

And he rubbished the notion that the large, complex tools found in the cave could have been created and used by a species with such tiny brains.

Given the dating of these tools, only H. sapiens, who presumably came to the cave after the pint-sized hominids had left or died out, could have had this ability, he said.

The rebuttal has been almost instant.

In a paper published on Thursday in the British science journal Nature, a team led by Adam Brumm of the Australian National University in Canberra take aim at what they call "lingering doubts" about the tools.

Their team -- who include Mike Morwood, a University of New England professor who directed the original dig -- examined 507 artefacts found at Mata Menge, 50 kilometers (32 miles) from the Liang Bua cave and dated as more than 800,000 years old.

Even though hundreds of thousands of years separate the Mata Menga and Liang Bua artefacts, there are remarkable similarities in the flint tools, in the choice of material and the angle and shape of the blade.

For Brumm, this means that H. floresiensis picked up the tool-making skills from their ancestors, H. erectus, who lived on Flores before changes in food supply forced the hominids to gradually downsize, becoming the little people found in 2003.

The study fires an appropriately lapidary volley at Hobbit-doubters.

"Pronouncements that H. floresiensis lacked the brain size necessary to make stone artefacts are... based on preconceptions rather than actual evidence," it says.

novax
06-04-2006, 08:20 AM
(3.25 feet)..

Interesting...

JBDW
06-04-2006, 08:26 AM
I'm no geneticist, but would the 'hobbit gene' explain midgets?

bluesky3
06-04-2006, 08:38 AM
As I recall, the 'Hobbit' doesnt have a chin. That makes it pretty clear it is not homo sapien. However, the discoverers of those fossils havent allowed other scientists to examine the fossils like they should have, so who knows, honestly.


I'm no geneticist, but would the 'hobbit gene' explain midgets?
hehehe No-- there are lots of different reasons for dwarfism, and while they all have genes associated with them, its not as simple as a 'hobbit gene' :) Link (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/dwarfism.html)

A & B
06-04-2006, 08:56 AM
Anybody who thinks scientists are always in agreement on "truths" and "facts" needs to read "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas Kuhn.

JBDW
06-04-2006, 08:57 AM
hehehe No-- there are lots of different reasons for dwarfism, and while they all have genes associated with them, its not as simple as a 'hobbit gene' :) Link (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/dwarfism.html)

Lol, it just seemed like the 'directest' explanation. I'm quite aware that genes aren't as simple as they're made out to be. :)

Geography
06-04-2006, 10:10 AM
Mini me you complete me.

Couldbebigga
06-04-2006, 05:31 PM
As I recall, the 'Hobbit' doesnt have a chin. That makes it pretty clear it is not homo sapien. However, the discoverers of those fossils havent allowed other scientists to examine the fossils like they should have, so who knows, honestly.


hehehe No-- there are lots of different reasons for dwarfism, and while they all have genes associated with them, its not as simple as a 'hobbit gene' :) Link (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/dwarfism.html)

I think they're very untrusting of letting anyone look at the bones now. Because they gave them to an Indonesian scientist to check and he labelled their theory as completely incorrect and then wouldn't give the bones back. Plus he damaged them with improper handling. They finally got the bones back after months and months of negotiating. I would be very reluctant to let them out of my sight after that too.

But remember, they have still let plenty of people study them.

1dayIWillBeBig
06-04-2006, 05:57 PM
In the beginning, there was the Flying Spaghetti Monster, who always was and always shall be. Then with His Noodley Appendage He formed the Universe in His Noodley Image and created all that there is of small noodles. Thus began the Creation of the Universe. He formed the Heavens and the stars and the planets and the moon and the sun and all that is beyond the Earth.
On the seconds day He sighted His empty domain and cried out, "Let there be a mountain!" And lo, there was, and He was happy. But He felt the bare mountain did not show the boundaries of His true noodly power. So He cried unto the mountain, "Let there be peas!", but alas, His sauce dribbled in the way and in His excitement He slurred - so there were trees. But He was happy, and to this day He pretends He meant to do that.
Yet His almighty noodleness was unsatisfied, for whom could He share this vision of His mighty power? So after much deliberation, He cried, "Let there be a little dude!" And lo - there was a midget. The midget He named "Alfredo", the first of his kind.

His noodliness is obviously becoming more and more revealed each day.

All praise Flying Spaghetti Monster!!!