'Hobbit' Fossils Mesmerize Scientists

Number of supporters grow for 'distinct' hominid species theory
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted Apr 28, 2009 7:12 AM CDT
'Hobbit' fossils.   (Courtesy of M.J. Morwood, University of Wollongong)
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(Newser) – Six years after their discovery on an Indonesian island, fossils of 3-foot-tall people creatures nicknamed "hobbits" continue to captivate researchers, reports the New York Times. So far, they haven't been clearly linked to other known human fossils. They may be descendants of Homo erectus who migrated from Africa earlier, or perhaps are an example of "reverse evolution," posit researchers. Some critics believe they are dwarf mutants or suffered a brain-shrinking disease that gave them grapefruit-sized heads.

But consensus is building behind a  theory, demonstrated after a conference on the creatures last week, that the fossils represent a new hominid species, Homo floresiensis, that is far more primitive than Homo sapiens. “Once you establish that this is a unique species, then these primitive features that it has suddenly take on a profound evolutionary significance," said a paleoanthropologist at Stony Brook University.