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Thursday, October 28, 2004

Evidence of Hobbits found

USA Today:

Fans of The Lord of the Rings may be interested to know that a remote Indonesian island has yielded the remains of pint-size people — a surprising new human species — that paleontologists say lived just 18,000 years ago. In fact, scientists have nicknamed the new creature "Hobbit" after the diminutive folks in the famed J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy. Fiction aside, the discovery reported today by an Australian paleontology team is a big deal, challenging decades of human-origins research. Buried amid scattered stone tools and the bones of pygmy elephants at Liang Bua cave on the eastern Indonesian island of Flores were the skeletal remains of a female belonging to the species that the discoverers have formally named Homo floresiensis. ... Brown's team believes that Hobbit is an example of island dwarfism, the widely observed tendency of isolated species to evolve toward smaller sizes because they are separated from mainland predators. The scientists suggest that the species started as an offshoot of Homo erectus, a human ancestor dating to 1.8 million years ago, that reached Flores by boat and eventually got smaller, hunting pygmy elephants and dodging Komodo dragons.
No word yet on whether any of the Komodo dragons were named Smaug.


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