Blog Six: Homo Floresiensis

The Homo floresiensis is an interesting species not only because they were only about 3 ft tall as adults which indicates dwarfism, but they were isolated on the island of Flores, Indonesia. This species had many primitive features. For example, they had long arms, unarched feet, and a very small brain. Despite all of these primitive features, they were still found with stone tools, which is typically thought of as requiring more brain capacities. Even though these “hobbits” were very small, they were clearly a branch of Homo erectus. Scientists explain their shot height with “evolutionary dwarfism”. This is a very regular occurrence on islands with limited resources. So, at the time of their arrival, Homo floresiensis may have been a normal height, however due to their limited resources, they shrunk in size in order to better survive. This could also be seen in some of the other animals on the island such as the pygmy elephant which was already found on the island before Homo floresiensis

The part of the lecture that I found to be most interesting was how these people originally got to the Island. Flores was said to be difficult to get to. The few animals that did arrive however were protected from others on the Island (which may be why the species prospered on Flores for so long). These primitive people are believed to not have been capable of traveling on water, so how did they end up on an island? One option is that the earlier people developed some sort of water transportation which was eventually lost over generations, however this is unlikely. When sea levels were lower, there could have been some type of land connections that are no longer there today. Another possibility is through tectonic activity. People could have floated out to sea by clinging to pieces of vegetation and eventually washed up onto Flores, Indonesia. So it is still a mystery as to how the hobbits arrived on the island, but they were able to remain on that island isolated for about 1.1 million years which I believe is very impressive.

Another thing that I find interesting which has also contributed to the study of human diversity is the fact that this discovery altered the entire human time line. When anatomically modern homo sapiens took over the Earth, by 33,000 years ago, we originally believed them to have replaced every other group of hominin on the planet. This discovery showed us however that the hobbits were actually still around and there was some overlap. It is also interesting to wonder if the two species ever interacted with each other and how. Some researchers even suggest that if they had met, perhaps the modern humans used up all of the resources that the hobbits needed to survive which is what led to their eventual extinction. None the less, I believe the discovery of a previously unknown relative of homo sapiens is extremely important, let alone the fact that they were actually inhabiting the Earth at the same time and could have had contact at some point with each other.

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