Study: Hobbits Weren't Humans

Evidence rejects theory on Homo floresiensis

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 16, 2013 7:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – In 2003, researchers discovered fossils on an Indonesian island that looked a lot like little humans—earning them the nickname "hobbits." But the classification of the three-foot-tall Homo floresiensis has sparked debate among experts: Were they really a distinct species, or perhaps just modern-day humans with a growth disorder? New evidence points to the former argument, the New York Times reports.

Researchers conducted a detailed investigation of the only known hobbit skull in existence, comparing it to a range of other skulls, among them Homo erectus, Neanderthal, and modern human—including those with growth disorders like microcephaly, Laron syndrome, and endemic hypothyroidism. They found that the skull looked more like those of the ancient species than those of Homo sapiens. "Our study provides further support for recognizing the Flores hominins as a distinct species, H. floresiensis, whose affinities lie with archaic Homo," write the researchers in PLoS ONE. (In other fascinating science news, astronomers have found a blue planet.)

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in a scene from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in a scene from "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."   (AP Photo/Warner Bros., James Fisher)
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