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Science File

More Bones Point to New Species of Small Humans

October 15, 2005|From Reuters

Australian scientists said Tuesday that they had discovered more remains of hobbit-sized humans that belong to a previously unknown species from the end of the last Ice Age.

Professor Mike Morwood of the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, stunned the science world last year when he and his team announced the discovery of 18,000-year-old remains of a new human species called Homo floresiensis.

The partial skeleton discovered in a cave on the remote Indonesian island of Flores in 2003 was of an adult hominid, or early human, only 3 feet tall. It had a chimpanzee-sized brain and would have walked upright.

Morwood and his team said it represented a unique species of early humans that evolved to a small size because of environmental conditions and the isolation of the island.

But critics suggested the small hominid was not a new species and was more likely a pygmy human or a creature that suffered from a form of microcephaly, a condition that causes an unusually small brain.

But the newly found remains cast doubt on that theory.

"The finds further demonstrate ... [it] is not just an aberrant or pathological individual but is representative of a long-term population," Morwood and his team said in a report in the science journal Nature.

The recently found remains consist of a jaw, as well as arm and other bones that the researchers believe were from at least nine individuals, some estimated to be as recent as 12,000 years old.

A jawbone reported last year and the latest one were probably from the same species. Both lacked chins and shared similar dental features.

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