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Indonesia's 'Hobbit' Species Unlocked: Where Did the Tiny Flores Man Come From?

Apr 24, 2017 05:36 AM EDT
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No, the origin of this particular "hobbit species" is not the Shire. Scientists revealed that the Homo floresiensis, dubbed as hobbits for its tiny stature, likely evolved from an ancestor from Africa and not the Homo erectus as previously believed.

According to a report from Phys Org, researchers from the Australian National University discovered that while the Homo erectus was the only other hominid who lived in the same region of Indonesia, there's no evidence linking it to the Homo florensiensis who's known to have lived in Indonesian island Flores as recently as 54,000 years ago. Instead, the study revealed that the latter was more likely to be a sister species of Homo habilis, one of the earliest human species from Africa 1.75 million years ago.

"The analyses show that on the family tree, Homo floresiensis was likely a sister species of Homo habilis," study leader Dr. Debbie Argue said. "It means these two shared a common ancestor. It's possible that Homo floresiensis evolved in Africa and migrated, or the common ancestor moved from Africa then evolved into Homo floresiensis somewhere."

The recent research was more comprehensive, using 133 data points all over the body, as opposed to previous studies which targeted just the skull and jaw.

Argue pointed out that their findings show that there's no evidence supporting the theory that Homo floresiensis evolved from the Homo erectus. In fact, a number of features -- like the structure of the jaw -- even suggest that the floresiensis were more primitive than the erectus.

One possibility is that the hobbit species could have branched off over 1.75 million years ago, evolving even before the earliest Homo habilis.

"When we did the analysis there was really clear support for the relationship with Homo habilis," Professor Mike Lee of Flinders University and the South Australian Museum said.

Lee added that they are 99 percent sure that Homo floresiensis, which occupies a "primitive position on the human evolutionary tree," has no relation to Homo erectus and is not a malformed Homo sapiens.

The research was published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

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