Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hobbits May Be Human After All

Date:
March 6, 2008
Source:
RMIT University
Summary:
The primitive features of the hobbit-like fossils found on the Indonesian island of Flores, may have been the result of a medical condition. The small human-like fossils were said to represent a primitive species completely new to science when they were discovered in 2004. Comparisons of the fossils with modern bones suggested that they were actually human, with their small stature and distinctive features the result of a condition related to severe iodine deficiency.

Professor Charles Oxnard and Dr Peter Obendorf – two of the researchers who have suggested a new theory for the origins of the hobbit fossils.
Credit: Image courtesy of RMIT University

RMIT University researchers have joined the worldwide debate over the hobbit-like fossils found on the Indonesian island of Flores, with a controversial new theory suggesting their primitive features are the result of a medical condition.

Related Articles


Dr Peter Obendorf and Dr Ben Kefford, from the School of Applied Sciences, worked with the University of Western Australia’s Emeritus Professor Charles Oxnard on a paper just published in the British journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

The small human-like fossils were said to represent a primitive species completely new to science when they were discovered in 2004.

But Dr Obendorf said comparisons of the fossils with modern bones suggested that they were actually human, with their small stature and distinctive features the result of a condition related to severe iodine deficiency.

“Dwarf cretinism can cause features very similar to those of the Flores hobbits,” the Senior Lecturer said.

“This extreme form of cretinism is the result of severe iodine deficiency in pregnancy in combination with a number of other environmental factors, such as eating foods that release cyanide into the body and increase serum thiocyanate.

“Dwarf cretins grow to not much more than one metre and their bones have distinctive characteristics.

“Our research suggests these fossils are not a new species but rather the remains of human hunter-gatherers that suffered from this condition.”

Dr Obendorf began working with Professor Oxnard soon after an Australasian Society for Human Biology conference, where the RMIT researcher noticed a similarity between illustrations of the Flores fossils and historic pictures of cretins. Dr Kefford joined the project a year later, contributing his ability to undertake multivariate analyses.

Cretinism has been largely wiped out from the western world through the addition of iodine to food but still occurs in developing countries where environmental factors result in populations suffering from substantial iodine deficiency.

Professor Oxnard said most people who had studied the Flores fossils were looking at genetics and heredity to account for their distinctive features.

“Almost all the people who have looked at these fossils have been coming from an evolutionary perspective,” he said.

“Our idea is that this was an environmentally caused problem.”

Dr Obendorf said the theory corresponded with the Flores islanders’ oral tradition, which includes stories of “little people” whose features were remarkably similar to those of dwarf cretins.

“Some of the traditional stories of the local people may be an ancient memory of an otherwise forgotten time, when cretins were a common part of the human population on Flores,” he said.

The paper, “Are the small human-like fossils found on Flores human endemic cretins?” was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. http://journals.royalsociety.org/content/jl77276376781n87/


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by RMIT University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

RMIT University. "Hobbits May Be Human After All." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080305193157.htm>.
RMIT University. (2008, March 6). Hobbits May Be Human After All. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080305193157.htm
RMIT University. "Hobbits May Be Human After All." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080305193157.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) Stanford University wants to unlock the secrets of the player piano. Researchers are restoring and studying self-playing pianos and the music rolls that recorded major composers performing their own work. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Newsy (Dec. 16, 2014) A group of scientists looked at the genetics behind the domestication of the horse and showed how human manipulation changed horses' DNA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) A collection of rare manuscripts by composers Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet are due to go on sale at auction on December 17. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 15, 2014) Researchers are looking to the past to gain a clearer picture of what the future holds for ice in the Arctic. A project to analyse and digitize ship logs dating back to the 1850's aims to lengthen the timeline of recorded ice data. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins