Blog Six: Homo floresiensis

After reviewing the lectures, articles, and video links from this chapter I have chosen to write about the both the details and scientific impact of the discovery of very small human-apes on an Indonesia island about 12 years ago.  In 2004, the bones of a tiny primitive people that used stone tools, hunted small elephants, and survived in the midst of large Komodo dragons were discovered.    The remains found belonged to a species that stood three feet tall and had a brain the size of an orange.  Because the bones found belonged to a person of such small stature some dismiss these findings as a genetic deformation and not indicative of what the rest of the population looked like.   Most researchers disagree with this dismissal.  The main group of thought pins these people as descendants of a race of far larger humans, named Homo Erectus, that thrived about a million years ago.  They argue that this species underwent something known as island dwarfism.  This is where a species is stranded on an island with limited resources and few natural predators.  Over a very long period of time, the species shrinks as a result of the limited food available.

Recently though, a new theory has emerged explaining the origins of this species, Homo floreseinsis, found on an Indonesian island.  This growing community of scientists theorize that Homo floresiensis is probably a direct descendant of some of the first apemen to evolve on the African savannah three million years ago.  That would mean that these primitive hominoids somehow managed to travel halfway across the world from their probably birthplace in the Rift Valley.  Although it seems unlikely that this primitive species would have been capable of migrating that far even over great periods of time, the anthropological evidence supporting this theory is startling.  First off, the species found is physically eerily similar to the Lucy, the 3.2 million year old member of Australopithecus afarensis. She also had a very small brain, primitive wrists, similar feet and teeth and was only little over 3 feet tall.  The key point about this theory is that it explains more fully why Homo floresiensis was so small.  This species did not shrink because they were stranded on an island, but because they were descended from a long line of small ape-like hominoids.  In research that provides further support for this idea, scientists have recently dated some stone tools from the Indonesian isle as being around 1.1 million years old, far older than had been previously supposed.  Further in depth scientific analysis shows that Homo floresiensis most closely resembles hominoid ancestors that first appeared in Africa over 2 million years ago.  Scientists also have a couple of theories as to what caused this resilient ancestor of ours to die out.  The last known H. floresiensis died out about 17,000 years ago.  Geologists have discovered a layer of volcanic ash that corresponds with the same time period as the last living members of this species.  They think a volcanic eruption and the ensuing ash caused the end for this hominoid.  Another group of scientists believe it was not a volcanic eruption that ended their existence, but that the earliest Homo sapiens, who had migrated to that area of the world around the same time, probably had killed them.

4 thoughts on “Blog Six: Homo floresiensis

  1. The debate on these human apes found Indonesia is very interesting. I wonder if the progression of theories on this one species in mostly driven by new findings on the specific species or new finding elsewhere that changes our overall understanding of primate evolution.

    The dwarfism theory is very plausible. North and South Korea have only been separated for around 40 years yet there is a large difference in the average height of North Koreans and South Koreans due to the differences in the amount of food available to citizens of each country, with North Koreans being an average of around 3 inches shorter than their Southern counterparts. While this is not a genetic variation, North Koreans are simply malnourished, it’s easy to see how environment could favor smaller bodies that demand less nutrients.
    The point that these human apes are similar Lucy as evidence they are direct descendents of apes out of Africa rather than the later homo species is interesting. If they are so like australopithecus afarensis even after millions of years studying these remains could teach us a lot about even earlier ancestors.

  2. Hello!
    I think a lot of us wrote about Neanderthals! It was nice to see someone write about H. floresiensis. I thought that they were more interesting than Neanderthals considering they were so isolated and some of the most interesting animals are found on islands. I didn’t know that they probably died off from a volcano eruption. Its interesting to see how these big catastrophes impacted life like Krakatoa which also created a tsunami. I think it would’ve been interesting to see how H. floreinsis got to Indonesia and if Indonesia was far from the mainland or did a group of them drift off into the ocean and survived the long journey crossing the ocean and finally found land and made Indonesia home.

  3. Hi,

    I agree that Homo Flosiensis is a very interesting species. For some reason, what caught my interest is how they got to the island in the first place. The island was very well protected so it was difficult to reach, especially without being capable of water travel, however once they arrived, their population most likely thrived because of how well covered the island was. It is interesting to think about the number of ways they could have gotten there though. One theory is that there were previous land connections that no longer exist and that is how they initially got to the island. Another theory is that they held on the vegetation as they carried them over to the island since land was changing form so often.

  4. I really enjoyed your post! It’s mind blowing that we are able to find fossils from centuries ago and get to learn more about ancestors and history. One thing I found extremely interesting about your post is “Homo floresiensis is probably a direct descendant of some of the first apemen to evolve on the African savannah three million years ago. That would mean that these primitive hominoids somehow managed to travel halfway across the world from their probably birthplace in the Rift Valley.” Even though it seems unlikely that they were able to travel this far, the thought of it is mind blowing. The Lucy fossil was really intriguing, it seems so unreal that we actually found a primitive from three million years ago and can still get all this information from it.

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