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Fossils Reveal Hobbit’s 700,000-Year-Old Ancestors, And They Are Even Smaller

Jun 09, 2016 06:52 AM EDT
Homo Floresiensis
Researchers have uncovered fossils in Mata Menge, Flores, and they are said to be the early ancestors of the Homo floresiensis, otherwise known as hobbits.
(Photo : Karen Neoh / Flickr)

Scientists have unearthed fossils of 700,000-year-old hobbit ancestors in the Indonesian island of Flores.

Researchers have uncovered the remains of at least three individuals in Mata Menge, central Flores, which are said to be the early ancestors of the Homo floresiensis - the half-sized member of the human genus otherwise known as hobbits.

The three-foot-tall Homo florensiensis was first discovered in 2003 in Lian Bua cave in the island of Flores. The small beings were initially thought to be around 60,000 to 100,000 years old.

According to a report in Live Science, the fossils, which were said to belong to one adult and two children, consist of a lower jawbone fragment and six teeth, including two tiny "milk teeth" from separate infants.

There are also ancient stone tools uncovered from the site, which suggests that these beings lived on Flores close to a million years ago.

The newfound remains were said to be older and smaller than the hobbits, which suggests that these ancestors may have shrunk "rapidly" upon reaching the island and have become hobbit-sized, scientists said.

"We were expecting to find something larger than what we found, something closer to the size of the original founder population, Homo erectus, but it turns out that they were as small if not smaller than Homo floresiensis," Dr. Gert van der Bergh from the University of Wollongong in Australia and leader of the research team, said in a statement in BBC.

"The rapid evolution seems quite fast but we have no examples of human or primates (shrinking) on other islands to compare it to," he added.

The scientists proposed that the Homo erectus might have shrunk to cope with the Island's insufficient resources.

These radical changes in size are said to be common when animals are trapped on islands, according to Live Science.

"To date, Flores is the only island in the world where we have fossil evidence for a human lineage evolving in isolation and adapting to an insular environment over a period of almost one million years," van der Bergh said.

"That is the main reason why Homo floresiensis is so different from any other human lineage from Africa, Europe or mainland Asia," he added. 

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