Science, Science and Tech

Could we explain The Hobbit?

Perhaps there could be some truth behind the books of J.R.R Tolkein, as a diminutive species of human have been found whose bodies could have shrunk as a result of island dwarfism.

Adult femalePhoto: Wiki Commons.

The remains of these creatures, which were found on the Indonesian island of Flores and have been rather aptly nicknamed the “hobbit”, show that it is possible for there to have been a dwarf version of an early human species.

These scientists also believe that the hobbit co-existed with our species until 12,000 years ago, and its smaller appearance could have been a result of evolution as it adapted to its island environment.

Since its discovery in 2003, researchers have struggled to explain the origins of these metre-high, tiny-brained people, known scientifically as homo floresiensis. However, one of the most popular and commonly-accepted theories is that the hobbit evolved from a relatively large brained and large bodied human known as homo erectus. This species, although predominantly from east Asia, moved to Flores where it began to shrink in size over the generations by a process known as island dwarfism, which has been seen to occur in other species.

However, critics of this theory argue that it would be impossible for erectus’s brain to shrink so much in relation to its body, so it must be a different species altogether.

Alternative theories are that these creatures are either a small group of modern humans, homo sapiens, whose brains and bodies have been prevented from growing normally because of a wasting disease, or that they are descendants of tiny-brained ape-like creatures.

23/04/2013

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