Mystery 'Hobbits' From Indonesian Island Were Not Humans

First Posted: Feb 16, 2016 11:12 AM EST

The little humans that became extinct on the Indonesian island of Flores about 15,000 years ago were not "Homo sapiens." They actually belonged to a different species, according to a recent study. The "Homo floresiensis" fossils ("the hobbits") were discovered in 2003. Numerous studies have been conducted since their discovery in order to determine if "the hobbits" were actually "Homo sapiens."

Some researchers believe that the small Flores Man was an ancestor of a larger "Homo erectus" that became smaller over hundreds of generations. This "insular dwarfing" occurred after migrating across massive land masses over extended periods of time and a decline in food supply reduced their sizes. The average adult hobbit was about 3 feet tall and weighed about 55 pounds.

The researchers of this study used a number of state of the art tools to analyze the layers of the "hobbit" skull, Liang Bua 1, whose cranium was the most intact among the nine known specimens.

"So far, we have been basing our conclusions on images where you don't really see very much... There is a lot of information contained in bone layers of the skull," Antoine Balzeau, lead author of the study, said in a news release. "There were no characteristics from our species."

The researchers still maintained the possibility that the "hobbit" could be a reduced-size type of "Homo erectus," which showed up on Java, a neighboring island, several million years ago. They aren't certain if the "H. floresiensis" belonged to a species of its own.

The findings of this study were published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

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