An analysis of the wrist bones of the Indonesian fossil known as "the hobbit" points to separate species status, rather than arming those who believe that the tiny human was a diseased Homo sapiens. Cynthia Graber reports.
A few years ago scientists discovered a three-foot skeleton of an early human species on an Indonesian island. They nicknamed the creature a “hobbit.” But the find left scientists with two major questions: Do these short, 18,000-year-old bones represent an entirely new human species? Or is it just someone with a growth disorder? Now the wrist bones may provide an answer. Researchers from the Smithsonian Institution published an article in the latest issue of Science. They showed that the hobbit’s wrists are significantly different from both early humans and from Neanderthals. In fact, the wrists are closer to those of African apes. Wrist bones take shape in early pregnancy and don’t change much. They’re also particularly distinctive between species. Scientists believe this shows that an early species in the human line migrated from Africa to Asia. They evolved into a new species on the Indonesian island. If modern humans and Neanderthals have a common ancestor, then modern humans and hobbits have a common, well, grand-ancestor. Making us and hobbits kind of second cousins.