Blog 6 – Homo Florensiensis

This week’s lectures have focused on several different early ancestors to our modern Homo Sapiens, from archaic H. Sapiens, to the older H. Habilis and everything that came in-between.  However, we did learn that there were an interesting few compared to the rest – Homo Neanderthalensis and Homo Floresiensis. The similarities between Neanderthals and humans is astonishing, and DNA analysis has shown some interbreeding in the past. However, the really interesting case is with the species Homo Floresiensis. Learning about them this week has definitely been the most interesting to me because of how different they were to the others of its time, and how long they managed to survive for over fifty-thousand years on their small island.

Homo Floresiensis is also known by another name, one that people may have heard before, they are referred to as “hobbits”. These hobbits usually stood around three feet tall, meaning they were very short in their stature. Since they lived on the island it is thought that they experienced evolutionary dwarfism which made them to be very small. Despite being short, they had both features similar to humans and to the other primitive species. Their primitive features included long arms, un-arched feet, and small brains to name a few. The remains of this species was only found in one location, and that is on the island of Flores in Indonesia. What intrigued me most was that these hobbits had a small brain (385-417ccs), yet they were also found in association with stone tools that were dated back to about 1.1 million years ago. This was a very unexpected find because the typical thought is that small brained species were not capable of the thought process to create tools even if they were simple and of the Oldowan style.

The discovery of the species back in 2004 has been very important because it lets us know that this region of the planet was populated for a whole lot longer than what was previously thought. Living in isolation, having small brains and size, using tools, and the fact that they left Africa isn’t the only surprise that scientists were left with. They also have a couple of different theories on how this isolated, long lasting species suddenly disappeared. One of the theories is that a nearby volcano erupted, and coated everything in volcanic ash, suffocating them out. The other, more popular, theory is that the region where they lived was taken over by the more modern homo sapiens, and they wiped them out. Homo Floresiensis has left many questions for anthropologists to answer and to learn more about as they continue doing more digs.  This species have already caused scientist to rethink how brain size correlates to the usage of tools, how evolution can adapt to certain circumstances, overall the behavior associated with their apparent organized and regular hunting, the reconsideration of how early Homo Sapiens migrated out of Africa, and how species differentiated. While Neanderthals look similar to us and had so much in common with us, we can also learn so much by studying a branch of us that is not so similar, like Homo Floresiensis.

4 thoughts on “Blog 6 – Homo Florensiensis

  1. Dear Kathleen,
    Your discussion of Homo florensiensis made me think that we should reconsider that brain size may not be the only factor that determines the ability to think and reason in more complex ways. As you mentioned, these hobbits were very small in stature and had very small skulls indicating much less cerebral volume than modern man. Even though this is true, these people had obviously developed an ability to cooperate together and probably communicate in order to survive so long in their isolated environment. Furthermore, their use of tools indicates that they were able to make connections between a more efficient use of their food resources and what the surrounding environment had to offer. Maybe the size of the brain is not as critical as how the organism can use the available neural tissue to their best advantage considering what their environment presents as opportunities and challenges to their survival.
    -Jaclyn Kyko

  2. Hello! Thank you for your blog post! Most people on here, including myself, have written about the Neanderthal so it was refreshing to find someone who wrote about Homo Floresiensis for this prompt!
    I think the discovery of this species was very important to evolutionary science – in particular the study of the evolution of modern humans. I think it’s just fascinating to know that other species of hominids populated this earth at the same time as our ancestors – and ones who functioned just as well with much smaller brains!
    It wasn’t until we came across the Homo Florensiensis this past week that I truly learned and understood about the different species living together at the same time.
    It certainly would be interesting to know what exactly caused the “hobbits” to go extinct.

  3. I agree that the lives and research about the Homo floresiensis is incredibly interesting. It is interesting that the short stature of this species can be explained through a concept known as evolutionary dwarfism. This evolution is due to a species experiencing limited resources while living isolated on an island. With the Homo floresiensis’ small brains, it is definitely surprising that stone tools were found where they lived. This seems to imply that their intelligence was greater than that of other species of the same brain size. And like you mentioned, this leads anthropologists to more questions concerning the correlation between brain size and tool usage. Learning how a species went extinct is crucial in uncovering how and when they lived, so it is great that you mentioned it. Although the volcano theory seems plausible, the idea of Homo sapiens taking over is even easier to believe due to Homo sapiens more advanced brains and bodies. Although I chose to write about the lives of the Neanderthals, I agree that many answers can be found in other species that don’t look as similar to humans. The Homo floresiensis species is one of great contribution to the study of the history of mankind. Great work!

  4. I found it very intriguing you did your response on Homo Floresiensis. Most other responses were on Neanderthals so I found your whole blog post to be very fascinating. I thought it was funny how another name for H. Floresiensis is “hobbits”. It is very captivating that even though these people were very short they had long arms and un-arched feet just like humans now. When reading the lecture I also found it very crazy that even though these “hobbits” had a small brain, they were still smart enough to have stone tools. Any finding of species is important for scientist because it gives them that much more information about past existence. It was very fascinating to read about the extinction theories of this species though because I did not know that. I really enjoyed your whole post and found it to be very interesting and educational.

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