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Hobbits' Brains Shrank Due To Remote Home 190

Hugh Pickens writes "The 'hobbits,' dubbed homo floresiensis, caused a worldwide sensation when they were discovered five years ago, when some scientists claimed that the 18,000-year-old human-like fossils found on the Indonesian island of Flores represented an entirely new species. Now researchers at the Natural History Museum in London believe that the creatures' small brains could have developed to reduce the creatures' energy needs, crucial for surviving in an isolated area with limited resources. 'It could be that H. floresiensis' skull is that of a Homo erectus that has become dwarfed from living on an island, rather than being an abnormal individual or separately-evolved species, as has been suggested,' says palaeontologist Eleanor Weston. 'Looking at pygmy hippos in Madagascar, which possess exceptionally small brains for their size, suggests that the same could be true for H. floresiensis, and the result of being isolated on the island.' Although the phenomenon of dwarfism on islands is well recognized in large mammals, an accompanying reduction in brain size has never been clearly demonstrated before."

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