Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Strange Brain of Homo floresiensis

Science News has a report on a study done on the endocranial remains of the strange, little hominid/hominin remains from the island of Flores, Indonesia. Bruce Bower writes:
An analysis of the inner surface of an 18,000-year–old skull assigned to Homo floresiensis, a species also known as hobbits, indicates that this tiny individual possessed a brain blessed with souped-up intellectual capacities needed for activities such as making stone tools, says anthropologist Dean Falk of Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Even as H. floresiensis evolved a relatively diminutive brain, the species underwent substantial neural reorganization that allowed its members to think much like people do, Falk contended on April 2 in a presentation at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists annual meeting. She also reported the findings in a paper published online February 28 in the Journal of Human Evolution.

To me, this gives more credence to the hypothesis that this represents endemic dwarfism on the island. They may have migrated to the area as a diminutive hominid line and simply never grew beyond the size of their forebears. In isolation, selection pressures continued for a more complex brain but not for a larger size. I am sure Ralph Holloway will have something to say about this. Read the whole thing.

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