The prehistoric ‘hobbit’ mystery may have been solved

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In 2003, the skeletal fragments and nine small species were found in the Liang Bua Cave on Flores, an Indonesian Island. The finding of a nearly complete skull and a partial skeleton of a probable female, around 30 years of age, who has been named LB1. Once reconstructed, the researchers were shocked to find out that LB1 was just a three-and-a-half feet tall.

The nickname of the “The Hobbit”, LB1, was a part of a new species, named Homo floresiensis, who is believed to have survived until about 60,000 years ago, and is still contemporary with Homo sapiens in the region. There are many in the scientific community, however, criticised the decision to change the name of LB1, as part of a new species, saying that she was just having an abnormal Homo sapiens. That theory was thrown out the window if it is another “hobbit”-sized skeleton is on the Market, it was discovered that the one even older than that of LB1. And this year, one of the other dwarf species, named Homo luzonensis–have been discovered in the Philippines.

Now, researchers think they know why this is the Hobbit-like species are so small–they have evolved to be much, much faster, thanks to being stuck on an island.

“If it happens often, all over the world, it’s just a matter of chance,” Pasquale Raia, associate professor in paleontology and paleoecology at the University of Naples Federico II, told Fox News. “The islands are all different [because] they are small, they harbor a bit of diversity of species and, even more importantly, you can’t be away from you.”


In their paper published in Biology Letters, the study’s leader, José Alexandre Felizola Diniz-Filho of the Federal University of Goiás, Raia and the staff section of the island line was originally proposed by the zoologist J. Bristol Foster in 1964. Foster noted that if large-bodied species to move to an island, they would have to downsize if they have moved, eventually, to leave the dwarf, the offspring. In one of the smaller species to move to an island, and the opposite was true, and that they would grow to be bigger types. Some examples of the island rule have been extinct, a donkey and a small hippopotamus in Cyprus, and the giant rats that have ever been found in the Caribbean, and the giant insects that are found in New Zealand.

A carved model of a Homo Floresiensis at The Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Bill O’leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Biologists believe that this is due to a variety of factors. For the one is greater it helps in the fight against its natural enemies, of which there are fewer (or even none) of the island. There would also be fewer resources in order to survive, to make it easier for the smaller species, which require less maintenance to thrive while larger species would have to adapt to it. There are fewer species to compete for food as well, which allows smaller animals to reproduce faster and eat more.

“If you are able to in order to survive on an island, and [t] is the probability that you are the dominant species, that populations do not fare well just go extinct on the islands, and with so little competition from other types of press, your main goal is to produce more offspring,” Raia said. It’s been a little individuals to reproduce more quickly, and one of the smallest of their offspring, and more offspring, in the process, speeds up, generation after generation.”

Raia and Diniz-Filho’s theory is that, due to the island’s line, Homo floresiensis, and that it is likely to be an offspring of the larger Homo erectus–have reproduced rapidly and developed into a very fast-paced. Judging by the geological history of the Market, and is the oldest restored to the Homo floresiensis fossils, the researchers had estimated that it kind of became “hobbit-sized” at over 5000 years old.


In order to find out how long it took for Homo floresiensis, to achieve its small size, (or how rapidly the evolution, in other words, the researchers have developed a computer model that can simulate body size evolution in different biological and environmental set-ups. In the model, the size of the body of the Homo floresiensis was the end product, and the larger body of his ancestor, the Homo erectus, it is a starting point. The computer model replicates the history.

“At a certain point in time (about a million years ago, in the real world, a few erectus to the island of Flores, in the beginning of life, and reproduce it,” Raia said, the model is proposed. “Generation after generation, and one of the smallest of these settlers have to leave a little more offspring, on average, than their brothers and sisters, and so on.

All generations of the model should possess either a larger or a smaller body, of the genes with the best body, and small populations are reproducing much more (“best” size is decided by the raw materials on the island at the time). In the model, it was calculated that desperate to ride it, hot and heavy people have to reproduce it slowed down with each subsequent generation, as the body size of the species is in decline.

“The force of this drive–and the greater reproductive success of the smaller pieces-all of it reduces as the size of the body decreases from one generation to the next,” Raia explained. “We have counted up, how many generations it will take to get to the end, and it was found that about 350 of [generations of] it was not enough, resulting in some 5,000 years ago.”


Raia notes that his description is a very simplistic explanation of a computer model, but it is what it is doing in the field. The model ran 10,000 simulations with random parameters and the variables.

“In the actual simulations, the model is full of intricate specs: the availability of resources changes, the climate will change, new settlers, and to be able to reach the Market in the light of a new and larger generations of the system, and, more importantly, the process is simulated with realistic parameters in terms of their genetic inheritance,” he said. “It’s a very simple example on that last point, even though a few of the high-parents can have a tendency to have a high child, this is only true on the average because of the heritability of human stature, which has both a genetic component and the environmental component of our model includes both.”

In their paper, the researchers write that their findings indicate the rapid changes that can occur under the right conditions, and that natural selection can play an important role in the body, and the size of the islands.

The one thing that still mystifies Raia, and Diniz-Filho is, how can these people, with a small, chimp-sized brain, it has thrived for so long on the island. LB1, for example, lived between 60,000 and 90,000 years ago, while her counterpart on the island, lived about 700,000 years ago.


“Perhaps we over-estimate the importance of the size of the brain in order to survive, but to begin with, but it’s still amazing to me, they were on the Market for about 1 million years, with their small bodies and small brains, they are to be successful, as no one would be able to understand,” Raia said. “I just wish that in the future we will be able to take a deeper look at their effect on the brain, through the study of the shape and proportions of the different brain cortical regions.”

Diniz-Filho, agreed, telling Fox News that he was not only the improvement of the computer model in order to study the brain/body size and structure, but more focused on the possible impacts of external factors as well.


“We’re going to try to have an explicit model of how the island’s characteristics, and the demographic characteristics of the population, the development of these characteristics in relation to their stunted growth process,” he said.

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