Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Scientists Discover Hobbits

BBC:

Scientists have discovered a new and tiny species of human that lived in Indonesia at the same time our own ancestors were colonising the world.

The new species - dubbed "the Hobbit" due to its small size - lived on Flores island until at least 12,000 years ago.

The fact that little people feature in the legends of modern Flores islanders suggests we might have to take tales of Leprechauns and Yeti more seriously.

Details of the sensational find are described in the journal Nature.

The discovery has been hailed as one of the most significant of its type in decades.

[...]

[H. floresiensis] shared its island with a golden retriever-sized rat, giant tortoises and huge lizards - including Komodo dragons - and a pony-sized dwarf elephant called Stegodon which the "hobbits" probably hunted.

[...]

Yet there are hints H. floresiensis could have lived on much later than this. The myths say Ebu Gogo were alive when Dutch explorers arrived a few hundred years ago and the very last legend featuring the mythical creatures dates to 100 years ago.

But Henry Gee, senior editor at Nature magazine, goes further. He speculates that species like H.floresiensis might still exist, somewhere in the unexplored tropical forest of Indonesia.

[...]

Because the remains are relatively recent and not fossilised, scientists are even hopeful they might yield DNA, which could provide an entirely new perspective on the evolution of the human lineage.

More about the Hobbit here.

If some DNA can be retrieved from this find, than we will gain a greater understanding of our evolution and human orgins in general, which is great. That it comes with the knowledge that we shared our recent past with tiny men who hunted pygmy elephants and battled komodo dragons is just plain cool.

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