Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Homo hobbitus update

Forgot this from a few days ago but Hawks has a post on a new paper by someone who knows his microcephaly:

The new paper doesn't give any new information about the specimens, and the suspicions raised about the nature of the sample are not new. But there is much new context here about the nature of microcephaly, its variability both clinically and genetically, and the complexity of examining it in the contexts of traditional socieities and archaeological specimens, and the problems of examining it in combination with possible dwarfism. The paper concludes that there is every likelihood that the pathways causing primary microcephaly in living people are the same ones responsible for the LB1 specimen.

Richards (the paper author) hypothesizes that the Flores specimens represent a group of H. sapiens who were dwarfed due to their island isolation -- a common occurrence on islands -- but not an offshoot of an earlier hominin species (e.g., H. erectus).

Also a link there to commentary by Carl Zimmer with a comment by Peter Brown, one of the discoverers.