You may have gotten a heads up from John Hawks that a new documentary on Homo floresiensis is around the bend. It is actually going to air tomorrow and you should catch it. It is titled “Alien From Earth,” premiering tomorrow Tuesday, November 11 at 8pm. I’ll definately be watching.
You’ll be seeing clips from Mike Morwood, Dean Falk, Matt Tocheri, Bill Jungers, and David Lordkipanidze explaining several lines of inquiry in regards to whether or not H. floresiensis unusual features are the result of disease, or the result from the “island effect” that often causes large creatures to evolve to be small, or a previously unrecognized branch of the human family tree.
Dean Falk will be providing an explanation of her 2007 CAT scan of the H. floresiensis brain and the comparisons she did to microcephalic brains. If you don’t remember, she believes the hobbit represents a healthy, and so far unique, specimen of ancient humanity. But as you may also know, the hobbit’s brain size is really small — around 380 cc and the archaeological assemblage attributed to H. floresiensis is way more advanced than what we’ve seen made by other hominids with similar brain sizes.
Matt Tocheri will be providing an explanation of his 2007 analysis of the wrist bones of the hobbit and comparison to African apes. Tocheri argues that based upon wrist bones, Homo floresiensis is for sure a separate species because the bones are indistinguishable from ancestral African apes or other early hominin-like wrists and resemble nothing like modern humans and Neandertals. Bill Jungers will be arguing that he see similarities of the hobbit’s bones to that of Australopithecus afarensis.
And since the estimated brain to body mass ratio of H. floresiensis lies between that of Homo erectus and the great apes, David Lordkipanidze discusses the possibility that H. floresiensis could be an unsuspected of our evolutionary tree.
All in all this seems like it should be an excellent synopsis on the latest research. I believe I’ve covered most of it before but video is pretty much more entertaining than reading a blog. Anyways, you can see a teaser clip and find more information about the show on the dedicated NOVA web page. And for those that can’t see the show, an online version will appear sometime afterward. Also of related interest is another documentary on H. floresiensis, which Afarensis live-blogged about several days ago. It is titled “The Hobbit Enigma,” and is also viewable online. I’m gonna try and watch that as well. Afarensis clarfied in the comment belowe that “The Hobbit Engima” and “Alien From Earth” are the same documentary — so why not watch it in advance?