Origins of Indonesian ‘hobbits’ finally revealed—21 April 2017

The most comprehensive study on the bones of Homo floresiensis, a species of tiny human discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, by researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) has found that they most likely evolved from an ancestor in Africa and not from Homo erectus as has been widely believed. The study found that Homo floresiensis, dubbed ‘the hobbits’ due to their small stature, were most likely a sister species of Homo habilis—one of the earliest known species of human found in Africa 1.75 million years ago.

The study was supported by ARC Discovery Project funding that enabled the researchers to explore where the newly-found species fits in the human evolutionary tree. Data from the study concluded there was no evidence for the popular theory that Homo floresiensis evolved from the much larger Homo erectus, the only other early hominid known to have lived in the region with fossils discovered on the Indonesian mainland of Java.

Study leader, Dr Debbie Argue from the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology, said the results should help put to rest a debate that has been hotly contested ever since Homo floresiensis was discovered. "The analyses show that on the family tree, Homo floresiensis was likely a sister species of Homo habilis. It means these two shared a common ancestor," Dr Argue said. "It's possible that Homo floresiensis evolved in Africa and migrated, or the common ancestor moved from Africa then evolved into Homo floresiensis somewhere."

Where previous research had focused mostly on the skull and lower jaw, this study used 133 data points ranging across the skull, jaws, teeth, arms, legs and shoulders. Dr Argue said none of the data supported the theory that Homo floresiensis evolved from Homo erectus.

Media issued by The Australian National University.

 

Image: Homo Floresiensis skull 2.
Image courtesy: Credit Stuart Hay, The Australian National University.

 

Original Published Date: 
Friday, April 21, 2017