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Homo floresiensis is an extinct species in the genus Homo. The remains of an individual that would have stood about 3.5 feet in height were discovered in 2003 in a cave at Liang Bua on the island of Flores in Indonesia. The original dating was 18,000 years old. There are stone tools from Flores going back to about 800,000 years ago. Of interest is then who made the tools and where did the toolmakers come from? There are two interesting features of “Flor” or LB1, as the bones are known. Note that, so far, portions of nine individuals have been discovered. The lower legs are comparatively short and would be unexceptional had the fossil been found in Africa and dated to 1.5 million years. We (Homo sapiens) and Homo neanderthalis are actually the oddballs in the family tree as far as having long lower limbs. And there’s another feature. Matthew Tocheri’s PhD work was on hominid wrist anatomy. Even if she had been twice as tall, LB1 would never have been able to be a good baseball pitcher – she had the old style wrist bones. So really zero chance she was a diseased, deformed or dwarfed modern human. The paper below moves LB1’s dating back to about 60,000 years. That still leaves the problems of  (1) when were Homo floresiensis on Flores (2) did they overlap with any other hominids – if so, when (3) and where did Homo floresiensis come from.

Besides the damage to the fossils inflicted by Teuku Jacob (6 December 1929 – 17 October 2007), the academic battle rages on as to whether “Flo” and friends are a separate hominid species. Claims have been advanced for microcephaly and for evidence of Laron Syndrome. The latter is a genetic condition with a mutation in the GHR (Growth Hormone Receptor) gene on chromosome 5 in the p13.1-p12 region. It is likely that mutations in the STAT5B gene (chromosome 17, q21.1 region), which is a signalling intermediary, would also contribute to Laron-style dwarfism. I am skeptical of both of these claims, but more Homo floresiensis skulls and DNA-bearing teeth are needed.

CoAuthors

(30 March 2016).

“Revised stratigraphy and chronology for Homo floresiensis at Liang Bua in Indonesia”.
Nature. 532 (7599): 366–369. doi:10.1038/nature17179. PMID 27027286.

 

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