Strange News And The UneXplained!

World News, Unexplained Phenomena, Natural Anomalies!

‘Hobbit’ Challenges Evolutionary Theory

Posted by 3citynewswire on 03/07/2010

Hunched over a picnic table in a limestone cave, the Indonesian researcher gingerly fingers the bones of a giant rat for clues to the origins of a tiny human.

his world turned upside down may once have existed here, on the remote island of Flores, where an international team is trying to shed light on the fossilized 18,000-year-old skeleton of a dwarf cavewoman whose discovery in 2003 was an international sensation.

Her scientific name is Homo floresiensis, her nickname is “the hobbit,” and the hunt is on to prove that she and the dozen other hobbits since discovered are not a quirk of nature but members of a distinct hominid species.

“They butchered the animals here,” said the researcher, Rokus Due Awe, studying the toothpick-sized rat bones possibly left over from hobbit meals. Behind him, workers carried out buckets of soil from a cathedral-like cave festooned with stalactites, 40 meters (130-feet) underground.

The discovery of Homo floresiensis shocked and divided scientists. Here apparently was a band of distant relatives that exhibited features not seen for millions of years but were living at the same time as much more modern humans.

Almost overnight, the find threatened to change our understanding of human evolution.

It would mean contemplating the possibility that not all the answers to human evolution lie in Africa, and that our development was more complex than previously thought.

Critics, however, dismissed the hobbit’s discovery as nothing extraordinary. They continue to argue that the hobbit, just 1 meter (3 feet) tall with a brain the size of a baby’s, was nothing more than a deformed human. Its strange appearance, they say, could be blamed on a range of genetic disorders that cause the body and brain to shrink.

The feud has played out in top scientific journals. But a growing consensus has emerged among experts on human origin that this is indeed a separate and primitive species that lived in relatively modern times — 17,000 to 100,000 years ago. The November issue of the highly respected Journal of Human Evolution was dedicated to the Flores findings and included a dozen studies supporting the hobbit as a new species.

Chris Stringer, research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, said the critics are “very much in the minority now.” He said that he just returned from a meeting in Arizona of more than two dozen experts on human origins and found widespread support there for the new-species theory. No one, he said, “took the view that this was some weird, pathological freak.”

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