Friday, November 20, 2009

Homo floresiensis: Not Homo

Peter Brown, the discoverer of the "Hobbit" (don't know about you but I just hate that name) is now arguing that the species does not belong in the genus Homo. In an article by Cheryl Jones for the Australian, she writes:
In a paper accepted for publication in an upcoming special Homo floresiensis edition of the Journal of Human Evolution, Brown and colleague Tomoko Maeda, also of UNE, say the hobbits' lineage left Africa "possibly before the evolution of the genus Homo". (The root of the human family tree stretches back about two million years to Homo habilis, or Handy Man, in Africa.)

Brown says assigning the Flores hominin to a different genus would worry some scholars. "They will think it somehow marginalises Homo floresiensis; that it's a clear statement that it is not a member of our genus, and it's extinct, so we don't have to worry about it any more," he says. "That's nonsense, because it's part of the broader evolutionary story of our species."

I am reminded of the late Grover Kranz arguing that australopithecines could be found in Indonesia or Don Tyler's Meganthropus argument. Brown's argument also, as the article notes, addresses the two warring camps in later human palaeoanthropology—the Out-of-Africa camp and the Multiregional Evolution camp. The first group advocates largely a replacement model of modern human origins, while the latter, as the name implies, suggests that modern humans originated in different areas of the Old World through a complex interaction of regional gene flow and evolution. The size of the populations and the gene flow between them kept speciation from occurring.

Read the whole thing.

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