Putting a Foot in a Hobbit Mouth

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Putting a foot in a Hobbit mouth reported in BBC News, American Museum of Natural History and ScienceDaily, 6 May 2009, and Nature, vol 459, p81 7 May 2009. Ever since the bones now nicknamed “the Hobbits” were found in a cave on the island of Flores, anthropologists have argued about whether they were dwarf human beings with pathologically small brains (a disease named microcephaly) or they were a different species of human. A group of scientists have now studied the feet of one of the specimens and concluded the feet “were primitive but not pathological” and are so different from human feet they must belong to a different species.

William Harcourt-Smith, a Research Scientist in the Division of Palaeontology at the American Museum of Natural History, who was involved in the study, explained: "Their feet have a combination of human-like and more primitive early hominin traits, some of which are more akin to those in Lucy." Lucy is the most famous of a group of extinct creatures named “Australopithecines”, or “southern apes”. The Hobbit foot is long in proportion to overall leg length, has long curved small toes and lacks an arch. Harcourt-Smith commented: "Arches are the hallmark of a modern human foot. It also has long curved small toes. This is another strong piece of the evidence that the ‘hobbit’ was not like us." The first metatarsal – the foot bone that supports the big toe, was relatively small, but researchers claim it was aligned with the other bones like a human big toe. In response to the “diseased human vs different human” debate, researchers compared the hobbit foot to “those of typical modern humans and pathological modern specimens such as pituitary dwarfs.” The feet were not like any of the human feet, but were more like ape feet.

BBC, AMNH, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: The Nature report has several graphs comparing the size and proportions of the Hobbit foot to those of humans and chimpanzees and other apes. The Hobbit foot consistently fits into ape range. This should be no surprise as its brain size and limb ratio of lengths fits the chimp range as well. It seems from head to foot this creature was an ape. (Ref. anthropology, hominids, Homo floresiensis)

Evidence News 27 May 2009

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