Hobbitses?

May. 19th, 2005 05:34 pm
ashnistrike: (Default)
So now it turns out that there's a community of pygmy humans living on Flores very close to the site where the hobbit skeleton was found. Is this evidence against homo floresiensis being a different species? This article says that they exist--but it doesn't give any indication that they have the same cranial oddities as the archeological specimins (i.e. the small but fully-formed brain). They're a bit taller, by about 50 cm on average, but humans have gotten taller over the last few centuries too.

Although it's not in the article, I have a hypothesis that I like. I've seen some suggestions in recent years that modern homo sapiens actually have some neanderthal DNA--that we interbred with them when we went north rather than just killing them. So maybe these relatively tall pygmies are the modern offspring of h. sapiens and h. floresiensis ancestors? Someone needs to take DNA samples in Rampasasa.
ashnistrike: (Default)
They've done X-rays of the interior of the homo floresiensis skull, and found some interesting things. It doesn't look like a pygmy or microcephalic homo sapiens, that's for sure. The brain is a third the size of ours, but structurally more complex than homo erectus--expanded frontal lobes (that means planning, forthought, reasoning, problem solving), and expanded temporal lobes (that means, potentially, language). And it almost certainly means a new species, as the original discoverers claimed.

Guardian story here. This one gets excited because "the creature may well have been advanced enough to make and use basic tools." This would be a little more impressive if we hadn't been finding lately that corvidae do that too, with less complex (or at least, differently complex) brains than the hobbits. Though if the archeological findings are correct, these guys were beyond that, using fire and chipping basic arrowheads, and other things that ravens and apes don't do.

Nice lay neuropsych analysis here, with a few more details than the Guardian story.

I want to do comparative xenopsychology, and this is as close as we've gotten so far. But, really, I want to get them under an fMRI, and do a linguistic analysis, and run them through the basic memory tests and find out what their working memory capacity is and whether they reconstruct their stories about the past to fit present beliefs...

Current Mood: Happy about findings. Sad about no live hobbits in lab.

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