Thursday, September 20, 2007

The "hobbit" as separate species

Well, it's time for Round 457 in the debate over whether the remains of a 90-cm primate called Flores man, Homo floresiensis, or "hobbit" represent a few microcephalic humans or a new species. This one sounds pretty convincing. (Granted, I've always been in the separate-species camp, so perhaps I'm too easily impressed, but some experts are saying the same thing). A team led by Matthew W. Tocheri of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History has concluded the wrist bones of the Flores specimens are very similar to those of apes like the chimpanzee and early human relations like the autralopithecines, not like those of modern humans. Not all dissenters have been convinced by this study: some, most notably Robert D. Martin of the Field Museum, insist the cranial capacity of the most complete Flores specimen, LB1, indicates insufficient brain power for any sort of "normal" (non-pathological) examples of a human species.

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