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More reports have been coming out of last week’s meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, and one that has caught my attention is a news article summarizing Bill Jungers‘ research on the Homo floresiensis foot morphology. Jungers recently published a research paper reanalyzing Orrorin bipedalism, along with his colleagues.

For this presentation, Jungers looked at the more or less complete left foot of LB1 and says that H. floresiensis had, “flat, clown-like feet.” The photo above are the fossilized H. floresiensis foot bones. In relation to the tibia and fibula fragments, these feet are larger.

From the New Scientist article,

Jungers’ team estimated the length of the hobbit’s feet, which were unusually large for its metre-high frame. “Sort of like a young girl wearing her mum’s shoes,” Junger says…

…And because of their long feet, H. floresiensis probably had to bend its knee further back than modern humans do, resulting in a sort of high-stepped gait. “You would watch these hobbits walk and say they’re walking a little funny,” Jungers says.

The foot had other peculiar features as well. For one, its big toe was quite short compared with the others, similar to earlier hominids such as Australopithecus. However, the shape of the toes, even the short big toe, is like modern human ones, Jungers says. “It has a human morphology and an ape-like proportion,” he says.”

So, he’s associating this morphology with a primitive hominid condition. Not all too novel…. a group did the same last fall, but with the wrist bones.

Nonetheless, I’m not convinced. Why?

A 2006 paper in the open access journal Anthropological Science investigated the big feet morphology of modern humans in Polynesia, which is close to Indonesia. That study found out that Polynesians have much longer and wider feet and hands than the other populations tested. The study gets into a discussion on how micro-evolutionary processes affected this phenotype. It is possible something similar happened to LB1. I’m still uncertain whether or not what we call H. floresiensis are anything but mutant modern humans

For those that wanna read the 2006 paper on big feet phenotype in Polynesia, the citation to that paper is right here:

    GONDA, E., KATAYAMA, K. (2006). Big feet in Polynesia: a somatometric study of the Tongans. Anthropological Science, 114(2), 127-131. DOI: 10.1537/ase.00097