Saturday, April 22, 2017

Is Homo floresiensis a Sister Species of Homo habilis?

A short blurb in Science Magazine attempts to lay to rest one of the nagging questions in recent human evolution: where did the diminutive “hobbits” originate?  A report by the Australian National University suggests that Homo floresiensis is a sister species of Homo habilis
Data from the study concluded there was no evidence for the popular theory that Homo floresiensis evolved from the much larger Homo erectus, the only other early hominid known to have lived in the region with fossils discovered on the Indonesian mainland of Java.

Study leader Dr Debbie Argue of the ANU School of Archaeology & Anthropology, said the results should help put to rest a debate that has been hotly contested ever since Homo floresiensis was discovered.

"The analyses show that on the family tree, Homo floresiensis was likely a sister species of Homo habilis. It means these two shared a common ancestor," Dr Argue said.

"It's possible that Homo floresiensis evolved in Africa and migrated, or the common ancestor moved from Africa then evolved into Homo floresiensis somewhere."

Homo floresiensis is known to have lived on Flores until as recently as 54,000 years ago.
How do we know this?
Where previous research had focused mostly on the skull and lower jaw, this study used 133 data points ranging across the skull, jaws, teeth, arms, legs and shoulders.

Dr Argue said none of the data supported the theory that Homo floresiensis evolved from Homo erectus.
I think that it is passing peculiar that we have found absolutely nothing else like this in over 100 years of searching in this area, but who knows what these smaller islands have hidden in them. This also raises interesting questions. Since we know that early Homo got as far as Russian Georgia, is it possible they got as far as Flores? That's a long way.  Is it possible that incoming Homo erectus out-competed them in most places except for a few small refugia?  Also possible.   Hopefully more information will turn up to help us answer these questions.

1 comment:

  1. Has anything more basal than H. erectus ever been found outside of Africa? Until there's a better record, I'm more inclined to think that H. floresiensis is an erectine offshoot with features merely convergent with H. habilus rather than directly derived from it.