Indonesian 'hobbit' challenges evolutionary theory

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Indonesian 'hobbit' challenges evolutionary theory

Post by SamCogar on Mon Mar 08, 2010 2:53 pm

The feud has played out in top scientific journals. But a growing consensus has emerged among experts on human origin that this is indeed a separate and primitive species that lived in relatively modern times 17,000 to 100,000 years ago. The November issue of the highly respected Journal of Human Evolution was dedicated to the Flores findings and included a dozen studies supporting the hobbit as a new species.

Chris Stringer, research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, said the critics are "very much in the minority now." He said that he just returned from a meeting in Arizona of more than two dozen experts on human origins and found widespread support there for the new-species theory. No one, he said, "took the view that this was some weird, pathological freak."

William L. Jungers, a paleoanthropologist at Stony Brook University Medical Center who co-edited the Journal of Human Evolution issue, insisted the debate was over. He has published a study of the hobbit's feet which found it had traits associated with both modern humans and apes.

"This is a new species that cannot be explained by any known pathology," Jungers said.

But the discovery of the hobbit, with its primitive traits, suggests that important stages in hominid evolution may have occurred in Asia, said Morwood, the coordinator of the hobbit dig. For example, he said, it may turn out that Homo erectus evolved in Asia.

"For many people, this was totally unexpected and indicates how little we know about hominid evolution, particularly in Asia," which may have "played a prominent role in some major developments in human evolution," he said.

Stringer, for one, believes the hobbit's ancestors could have been a forerunner of Homo erectus. If fossils are found to prove that, he said it would upend the belief that erectus was the first of our ancestors to make it out of Africa and eventually migrate to China and the Indonesian island of Java.

Instead, something more primitive may have left Africa, evolved into erectus and then returned to the continent.

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