A new paper published in Anthropological Science claims that comparative skull analyses between the hobbit skull and various others from H. sapiens and a plethora of archaic others, indicates to the authors of this study that the diminutive humans, whose remains were discovered on the island of Flores descended from Asian Homo erectus.
The paper is free to access, and although I haven’t had time to read it through, looks set to cause yet more rumblings in the ongoing debate between those who contend H. floresiensis was a microcephalic H. sapiens, and those who believe that an entirely new species of human has been discovered. Here’s the abstract…
Since its first description in 2004, Homo floresiensis has been attributed to a species of its own, a descendant of H. erectus or another early hominid, a pathological form of H. sapiens, or a dwarfed H. sapiens related to the Neolithic inhabitants of Flores. In this contribution, we apply a geometric morphometric analysis to the skull of H. floresiensis (LB1) and compare it with skulls of normal H. sapiens, insular H. sapiens (Minatogawa Man and Neolithic skulls from Flores), pathological H. sapiens (microcephalics), Asian H. erectus (Sangiran 17), H. habilis (KNM ER 1813), and Australopithecus africanus (Sts 5).
Our analysis includes specimens that were highlighted by other authors to prove their conclusions. The geometric morphometric analysis separates H. floresiensis from all H. sapiens, including the pathological and insular forms. It is not possible to separate H. floresiensis from H. erectus. Australopithecus falls separately from all other skulls. The Neolithic skulls from Flores fall within the range of modern humans and are not related to LB1.
The microcephalic skulls fall within the range of modern humans, as well as the skulls of the Neolithic small people of Flores. The cranial shape of H. floresiensis is close to that of H. erectus and not to that of any H. sapiens. Apart from cranial shape, some features of H. floresiensis are not unique but are shared with other insular taxa, such as the relatively large teeth (shared with Early Neolithic humans of Sardinia), and changed limb proportions (shared with Minatogawa Man).
The putative link to H.erectus isn’t entirely unexpected, if only from a geographical perspective, because the island of Flores was also home to these archaic humans some 840,000 years ago – as with the so-called hobbits, nobody is quite sure how they managed to arrive on an island so long ago, when a sea crossing was the only available means of access.
(via Mundo Neandertal)
image via online paper
The Origin of Homo floresiensis and its Relation to Evolutionary Processes Under Isolation. (PDF) (HTML) G.A. Lyras, M.D. Dermitzakis, A.A.E. Van der Geer, S.B. Van der Geer, J. De Vos. Anthropological Science 117(1), 33–43, April 2009.