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New research sheds light on 'Hobbit'
Date:9/20/2007

An international team of researchers led by the Smithsonian Institution has completed a new study on Homo floresiensis, commonly referred to as the hobbit, a 3-foot-tall, 18,000-year-old hominin skeleton, discovered four years ago on the Indonesian island of Flores. This study offers one of the most striking confirmations of the original interpretation of the hobbit as an island remnant of one of the oldest human migrations to Asia. The research is being published in the Sept. 21 issue of Science.

The team turned its research focus to the most complete of the 12 skeletons discovered and specifically toward three little bones from the hobbits left wrist. The research asserts that modern humans and our closest fossil relatives, the Neandertals, have a very differently shaped wrist in comparison to living great apes, older fossil hominins like Australopithecus (e.g., Lucy) and even the earliest members of the genus Homo (e.g., Homo habilis, the handy-man). But the hobbits wrist is basically indistinguishable from an African ape or early hominin-like wristnothing at all like that seen in modern humans and Neandertals.

The lead author of the study, Matt Tocheri, a paleoanthropologist in the Smithsonians Human Origins Program at the National Museum of Natural History, was completely surprised when he first saw casts of the hobbits wrist bones. Up until then, I had no definitive opinion regarding the hobbit debates, said Tocheri. But these hobbit wrist bones do not look anything like those of modern humans. Theyre not even close!

The evidence from the hobbits wrist is extremely important because it demonstrates further that the hobbit indeed represents a different species of human as was originally proposed by its discoverers. It is not a modern human with some sort of pathology or growth disorder. The distinctive shapes of wrist bones form during the first trimester of pregnancy while most pathologies and growth disorders do not begin to
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Contact: Michele Urie
UrieM@si.edu
202-633-2950
Smithsonian
Source:Eurekalert

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