Thursday, May 07, 2009

Shrinking the Kids

This is pretty cool. I really love it when science finds something completely new, especially when it upsets the traditional applecart. Not only have the 'hobbits' been shown to be a completely new human species but this confirms the idea of 'island dwarfism'. Much to the chagrin of the creationists it also shows that a species, like humans, when faced with a marginal environment can evolve by downsizing to match the available resources, given time. Talk about a classic example of selective adaptation.

A miniature species of extinct humans, nicknamed "hobbits", possessed unusual anatomical features explained by their complete isolation from the rest of humanity for thousands of years on their remote island home in Indonesia, studies have found.

The tiny people, who grew to an adult height of no more than three feet, astounded scientists in 2004 when a skull and partial skeletons were unearthed from a cave on the island of Flores. Radiocarbon dating suggested that the species, Homo floresiensis, had lived in and around the cave for tens of thousand of years before dying out about 17,000 years ago.

The latest research into H. floresiensis has found that they were flat-footed, long-toed creatures who could walk easily on two legs but would have found it difficult to run at speed. A separate study suggests that their very small heads, which were perfectly in proportion to their bodies, were the evolutionary outcome of living on such a remote island for so long.

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