Hobbits of Middle Earth

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In 2004 the world would be reintroduced to a species that actually sounds like a work of fiction. Homo floresiensis was discovered in 2003 in a limestone cave Liang Bua in Indonesia on the island of Flores. The fairly complete skeleton found would be labeled LB-1 and she only would have stood 1 m tall with a brain about 1/3 as big as ours and also had some big (Hobbit) feet compared to her overall size and short legs. Because of their small size and they were ironically discovered the same year the last installment of the Lord Of the Rings Movie came out they were given the name Hobbits. LB-1 lived around 80,000 years ago and even though they had a small brains they still made tools which were also discovered with LB-1 that date back between 190,000 and 50,000 years ago. They hunted pygmy elephants large rats (which are still alive today) and coped with Komodo dragons.

 

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The reason they are so small was thought to be Island dwarfism. Which simply put are adaptions to use less energy because they are in a island setting with limited resources and few predators. Which allow for island dwarfism adaptations which generally put selective pressure for a smaller stature and brain which takes a lot of calories to keep up. Even the pygmy elephants they hunted are also examples of island dwarfism. But a lot of questions remained. Is she actually a separate species or a diseased modern human? What is their ancestry, and did they evolve on Flores or a neighboring  island? Also, how did they get to the island in the first place?

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It would take more than a decade after the initial discovery to find more hominin bones in Flores. The discovery took place at Mata Menge where they discovered a partial mandible and some teeth. They looked remarkable similar to LB-1 but nearly as complete as LB-1 but they still had major significance because they date to be about 700,000 years old meaning they lived on the island for more than half a million years! The age blew the modern human theory out of the Shire, for they truly were their own species. There were still a lot of questions that could only be answered with more fossils.

 

hobbit-humanSince 2003 there has been much debate about the mysterious Homo florensiensis. Its ancestory has been a fierce topic. The main group believing it’s ancestor was Homo erectus experienced island dwarfism when they got isolated on the island of Flores, but there hasn’t been fossil evidence on the island. Others see features that are older in the hobbits that lead them to suggest there ancestor is actually Homo habilis or earlier austhrolopiths. But based on the most comprehensive analysis ever done for the hobbits that published in mid April of this year suggests strongly that they evolved form a unknown primitive ancestor from Africa. The hobbits are a sister lineage with Homo habilis sharing a common ancestor. And either the hobbits ancestor migrated out of Africa ,before Homo erectus left Africa, and they evolved outside of Africa or they stayed in Africa and evolved and then later migrated still before Homo erectus. And Most likely the hobbits were able to survive as long as they did because they were isolated in Flores which shows no evidence of Homo erectus of ever discovering. But eventually they did go extinct about 50,000 years ago either from a volcano eruption that happened around then or when we discovered the island around the same time.

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