National Geographic has a breaking story about tiny ancient human skeletons having been discovered on the Pacific island of Palau (also: video story). However, the skeletons are not considered to be evidence for a new species – as is claimed with the Flores ‘hobbits’ – but instead the size of the individuals has been put down to insular dwarfism. This has led to more questions about whether the Flores hobbit is really unique.
However, a number of scientists have pointed out that the new discoveries differ in their morphology to the Hobbit skeletons. Dean Falk, anthropologist at Florida State University, summed it up succinctly:
The Palauan remains, she added, are just a set of small bones, representing small-bodied people. “But being small does not make one comparable to Homo floresiensis,” she noted. “It makes one small — period.”
The new debate comes hot on the heels of the controversy I noted last week, with the suggestion that the ‘Hobbits’ were perhaps just outcast dwarf cretins.