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Brief Summary

    Brief Summary
    provided by EOL authors
    Nickname: Hobbit Where Lived: Asia (Indonesia) When Lived: About 95,000 – 17,000 years ago Remains of the most recently discovered early human species, Homo floresiensis (nicknamed ‘Hobbit’), have been found between 95,000 and 17,000 years ago on the Island of Flores, Indonesia. H. floresiensis individuals stood approximately 3 feet 6 inches tall, had tiny brains, large teeth for their small size, shrugged-forward shoulders, no chins, receding foreheads, and relatively large feet due to their short legs. Despite their small body and brain size, H. floresiensis made and used stone tools, hunted small elephants and large rodents, coped with predators such as giant Komodo dragons, and may have used fire. The diminutive stature and small brain of H. floresiensis may have resulted from island dwarfism—an evolutionary process that results from long-term isolation on a small island with limited food resources and a lack of predators. Pygmy elephants on Flores, now extinct, showed the same adaptation. The smallest known species of Homo and Stegodon elephant are both found on the island of Flores, Indonesia. However, some scientists are now considering the possibility that the ancestors of H. floresiensis may have been small when they first reached Flores. One of our own scientists, Dr. Matt Tocheri, does research on this enigmatic early human species; read more about this work, and watch a video about it on this page: http://humanorigins.si.edu/resources/multimedia/videos/hobbits-flores-indonesia

Size

Type Information

    Key Fossils
    provided by EOL authors
    LB-1 Nickname: Hobbit Site: Liang Bua, Flores, Indonesia Date of discovery: 2003 Discovered by: Wahyu Saptomo, Benjamin Tarus, Thomas Sutikna, Rokus Due Awe, Michael Morwood, and Raden Soejono Age: 18,000 years old Species: Homo floresiensis This adult female, who died around the age of 30, was only a little over 1 m (3.5 ft) tall. Her brain, estimated at 400 cubic centimeters, was as small as those of chimpanzees and the smallest australopithecines. She had fairly large brow ridges, and her teeth were large relative to the rest of the skull. Her fossils consist of an almost-complete skull and partial skeleton that include her legs, hands, feet, part of her pelvis, and other fragments. LB-1 is the most complete H. floresiensis fossil found to date. 3-D collection link: http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/3d-collection/f-lb1

Behavior

    How They Survived
    provided by EOL authors
    Stone tools found on the island of Flores show that early humans arrived there at least 800,000 years ago, but it’s not known how early humans got there as the nearest island is 9 km (6 mi) away across treacherous seas. Paleoanthropologists found many stone tools associated with H. floresiensis, and these tools are broadly similar to those found earlier on Flores and throughout the human evolutionary career (i.e., Lower Paleolithic tools in Asia or Oldowan tools in Africa). There is also evidence that H. floresiensis selectively hunted Stegodon (an extinct type of elephant) as hundreds of Stegodon bone fragments are found within H. floresiensis occupation layers and some of these Stegodon bones show butchery marks.

Evolution

    Evolutionary Tree Information
    provided by EOL authors
    Although there has been considerable scientific debate over whether LB1 (the holotype of Homo floresiensis) may represent a modern human with a disease or growth disorder, most scientists now recognize H. floresiensis as a valid taxon and a human species distinct from Homo sapiens (modern humans). Scientists are now trying to figure out exactly how H. floresiensis is related to other species in the genus Homo. For example, did H. floresiensis evolve from an earlier population of H. erectus, or did it evolve from a smaller species, such as the early humans found in Dmanisi (Republic of Georgia), or perhaps another early species of the genus Homo?

Notes

    The Unknown
    provided by EOL authors
    We don’t know everything about our early ancestors—but we keep learning more! Paleoanthropologists are constantly in the field, excavating new areas with groundbreaking technology, and continually filling in some of the gaps about our understanding of human evolution. Below are some of the still unanswered questions about Homo floresiensis that may be answered with future discoveries: 1. Which hominin species made the 800,000 year old stone tools found on Flores? 2. How did these early humans manage to get to the island of Flores? 3. Did H. floresiensis have language, make art, and have other forms of cultural expression? 4. Did H. floresiensis and our species, H. sapiens, ever come into contact with one another? 5. Was a volcanic eruption on Flores the reason H. floresiensis went extinct? 6. How similar is the DNA of H. floresiensis to the DNA of other human species? So far, no DNA has been retrieved from the bones of a H. floresiensis individual.

Other Articles

    History of Discovery
    provided by EOL authors
    Year of Discovery: 2003 A joint Indonesian-Australian research team found LB-1—a the nearly complete female skeleton of a tiny human that lived about 18,000 years ago—in Liang Bua cave on the island of Flores, Indonesia. The skeleton’s unique traits such as its small body and brain size led scientists to assign the skeleton to a new species, Homo floresiensis, named after the island on which it was discovered. Since the initial find, bones and teeth representing as many as 12 H. floresiensis individuals have been recovered at Liang Bua—the only site where H. floresiensis has been found so far. The bulk of the finds related to H. floresiensis date between 95,000 and 17,000 years ago.