Tuesday, January 30, 2007

'Hobbit' race real

JAKARTA: The 18,000yr-old skull and other remains of a small hominid found in the island of Flores, Indonesia belong to a species new to science, researchers concluded after months of study.

Scientists belonging to the Florida State University had found the fossils in 2003, in a limestone cave on the Indonesian island. The find was labeled LB1 but nick-named 'Hobbit' because of its unusual features and likely resemblance to the dwarf-like creature from the J. R. R. Tolkien trilogy 'Lord of the Rings'.

The features had led the FU team to believe they had the remains of an as-yet-undiscovered human species. Other scientists argued that it was an ordinary ancient human who had probably suffered microcephalia – a rare pathological condition where the head is disproportionately small and usually accompanied by mental retardation.

Lead researcher and paleoneurologist Prof. Dean Falk said his team was now “absolutely convinced” that their find was indeed of a new human species. The scientists have labeled it as Homo Floresiensis

Now after more than two years of analysis, the team reverted to their first hypothesis that the remains belonged to a species new to science. In their study, the scientists analyzed several endocasts – computer-generated impressions of the brain structure taken from the hollow within the skulls. The endocasts included 19 of modern humans nine of whom were microcephalic; one belonged to a modern human dwarf of a similar height as LB1.

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