"All the world's a stage we pass through." - R. Ayana

Monday, 20 May 2013

Are the ‘Hobbits’ Truly Extinct?

Are the ‘Hobbits’ Truly Extinct?
Rangers sight pygmies in Way Kambas National Park

by Oyos Saroso HN

Orang Pendek, Humanoid type

Rangers patrolling the Way Kambas National Park (TNWK) in Lampung claim to have sighted dozens of pygmies in a number of areas across the park.

According to them, the pygmies sport dreadlocks, measure no more than 50 centimeters tall and do not wear any clothing.

“A number of rangers claim the pygmies grow their dreadlocks down to their waist. The first sighting by the rangers was on March 17 at 6:40 p.m. local time,” said TNWK spokesman Sukatmoko.

He added that several rangers patrolling the park claimed the pygmies were seen moving to the PT Nusantara Tropical Fruit (NTF) plantation. They were seen running from the TNWK forest to the plantation.

“Apparently, many fruit trees, such as banana, guava and dragon fruit, are grown in the NTF plantation area. If the pygmies like fruit, they might have entered the plantation for food,” said Sukatmoko.

Forest rangers have secured a number of points at the border between TNWK and PT NTF, concerned that the safety of the pygmies is at stake due to the presence of many workers at the plantation.

“We will try to anticipate the situation with the help of local residents and PT NTF employees. If they come across the pygmies, they should not harm them,” he said.

Sukatmoko said that based on information conveyed by forest rangers, the group of pygmies consisted of around 15 individuals. When the rangers spotted them, the pygmies, believed to be an isolated group of people, were walking through a swamp.

“The rangers monitored their presence for around 15 minutes from a distance of around 35 meters. When the rangers were about to approach them, they immediately hid behind trees and vanished. They ran very fast,” said Sukatmoko.

He added that on March 20, patrolling rangers sighted the pygmies again in the same place, but this time they observed from further away and for a shorter time.

Sukatmoko said his office was unsure whether the pygmies had always lived in TNWK, or whether they were newcomers from other islands. To record their presence, the TNWK center has installed surveillance cameras in the forest.

“We can record pictures of the pygmies at night. After it’s proven they exist, we will immediately inform the Forestry Ministry, or even the President,” he said.

Sukatmoko promised his office would protect the pygmies and not disturb them.

“We believe they really exist in TNWK. We’re making strenuous efforts to find them. In the event that we do, we hope the government protects them. Our rangers have seen them with their own eyes, but have yet to take pictures of them,” he said, adding the center had allowed academics and researchers to trace and study the group.

Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Lampung chapter campaign director Mukri Friatna said the pygmies had been sighted in a number of forests in Indonesia, such as in Kerinci Seblat (West Sumatra), Liang Bua (Flores) and Bone (South Sulawesi).

“In Kerinci Seblat, they are known as the orang pendek [short people], in Flores as homo floresiensis, and in Bone as members of the Oni tribe. In Mount Kerinci, the creature is depicted as having inverted legs but is very agile among the dense foliage,” said Mukri.

TNWK, located in East Lampung, covers 125,000 hectares. The forest, more than 40 percent of which has been damaged, is home to the Sumatran elephant, rhinoceros, tigers and a number of other rare wildlife species.

Humans, Flores 'hobbits' existed together: study


by David Mark

'Very, very primitive': Debbie Argue compared bone fragments from the hobbits to other hominids.

They were just one metre tall with very long arms, no chins, wrist bones like gorillas and extremely long feet.

In 2003, archaeologists excavating in a cave on the Indonesian island of Flores made a discovery that forced scientists to completely rethink conventional theories of human evolution.

They reported the discovery of a new species of human, one that lived as recently as 12,000 years ago, at the same time as modern humans.

But others disagreed, arguing the one-metre-high skeleton was a modern human that suffered from a deformity known as microcephaly.

The debate has raged ever since. But Debbie Argue, a PhD student from the ANU's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, believes she has settled the question by comparing bone fragments from the hobbits to other hominids.

"We compared them to almost every species in our genus, as well as Australopithecine, which was a genus before Homo evolved," Ms Argue said.

"Of course, we included Homo sapiens.

"We discovered that Homo floresiensis ranged off the family tree almost at the beginning of the evolution of our genus, Homo.

"So that would have been over two million years ago, and as such a very, very primitive being."


'Paradigm shift'


Ms Argue's work was published recently in the Journal of Human Evolution. She describes the work as a paradigm shift in archaeology, overturning the notion that Homo sapiens were the only hominids on the planet after the extinction of Homo erectus and the Neanderthals.

"This is science, so maybe [it's] not the definitive proof but a very, very solid hypothesis," she said.

"This is the first time such a huge and comprehensive set of characteristics about the whole of the body of Homo floresiensis has been but into one analysis."

Ms Argue says her work challenges another major cornerstone in the theory of human evolution.

"This means that something very, very primitive came out of Africa," she said.

"Previous to this we thought that what came out of Africa had modern body proportions and an expanded brain case, but this is a much more primitive being.

"We know that Homo floresiensis was, in Flores at least, from 100,000 years ago to about 12,000 years ago. And at that time, or at least from 40,000 years ago, we had modern humans in Asia and New Guinea and Australia.

"So here we were sharing the planet where we thought we'd been the only people that survived after the end of the Neanderthals."

From the ABC @ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2009-08-02/humans-flores-hobbits-existed-together-study/1375562

Brain size points to origins of 'hobbit'

The hobbit was dwarfed by giant storks and stegodon (Source: National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo)

A new study of fossil skulls has weighed into the debate on the identity of the ancestor of the so-called 'hobbit'.

Japanese researchers argue today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B that Homo erectus is the most likely predecessor of the famously diminuitive creature known as H. floresiensis.

"We conclude that evolution from early Javanese H. erectus to H. floresiensis was possible in terms of brain size," say Dr Yousuke Kaifu and colleagues, from the University of Tokyo and the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo.

Ever since their discovery on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2004, bones of H. floresiensis have been the subject of much contention.

Some have claimed the so-called 'hobbit' was little more than a sick human, suffering from a condition called microcephaly.

While most working in this area support the idea that floresiensis is a new species of human, there is still quite broad disagreement over which early human it evolved from.

One hypothesis is that floresiensis evolved from the similarly small-bodied, small-brained H. habilis, but there is little evidence that such an ancestor ever made it to Southeast Asia.


Shrinking brain


Another theory is that the hobbit evolved from the much larger H. erectus, remains of which have been found on the island of Java.

According to this hypothesis, H. erectus somehow crossed over to Flores, where it shrunk into the hobbit over evolutionary time, through a process called "island dwarfism".

Weighing against this theory has been the gap between the sizes of the erectus and floresiensis brains.

But now, Kaifu and colleagues have used high-resolution CT scans to show the difference between the two is smaller than previously thought.

They say the earliest Javanese erectus had a brain size of 860 cubic centimetres, rather than the previously accepted mean of 991.

By contrast, floresiensis had a brain size of 426 cubic centimetres rather than the oft-cited figure of 400.

Together with a reanalysis of the scaling relationship between brain and body size among early humans, the researchers say the erectus model is now more viable.

They say while it is possible that the hobbit was an "archaic hominin individual with microcephaly … the robust limb bones, phalanges with osteophytes and signs of healed trauma on the cranial vault and tibia point to an active life rather than a disabled condition in this individual."


Scaling and extreme dwarfism


As humans and other hominins have evolved, their bodies have grown bigger, but their brains have grown at an even greater rate.

Researchers use such scaling relationship to work backwards and study evolutionary relationships between modern and early humans.

Using different groups of hominins and a larger sample than previously analysed, Kaifu and colleagues found this scaling could explain at least 50 per cent of the tiny hobbit brain.

"The results show more significant contribution of scaling effect than previously claimed," say Kaifu and colleagues.

The researchers say the rest of the shrinkage could be explained by extreme island dwarfism, in which the brain of an animal decreases in size even more compared to its body size.

For example, fossils show dwarf goats and hippos once lived on islands in the Mediterannean and off Africa.

The idea is that where there are no predators, and the animals are presumed not didn't have to use too much brain power to survive, they shed kilos of an organ which is very metabolically expensive.

Despite having to contend with giant storks, stegodons and komodo dragons, Kaifu and colleagues say the same could have applied to the hobbit.


Narrowing the gap


Professor Colin Groves of the Australian National University welcomes the research saying that although many CT scans of hobbit brain cases have been carried out before, Kaifu and colleagues have done the highest resolution yet.

Groves says the slightly larger hobbit brain size and the slightly smaller Homo erectus brain size "narrows the gap" between the two, but he is not convinced that erectus is the hobbit's most likely ancestor for the hobbit.

"I think habilis is the one it's most like," says Groves.

While he agrees fossil evidence for habilis is scant in Southeast Asia he says jaw fragments of the same age as the skulls being studied by Kaifu and colleagues suggest it was there long before floresiensis.

"The very earliest jaw fragments that are classified as H. erectus from Java have very habilis-like charactaristics and therefore could in fact be habilis," he says.

But everyone agrees that only more research will tell who is correct.

"The question will be answered most effectively by future discoveries of skeletal evidence for the first hominins to colonise Flores," say Kaifu and colleagues.

From ABC Science @ http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2013/04/17/3738441.htm?site=science%2Ftricks&topic=latest

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1 comment:

  1. of course hobbits are NOT extinct, they just avoid us because if we see them the first thing we are likely to do is kill it to see how much money we can get out of it. we are a pretty stinky race, so who can blame them for keeping out of our way, anyway they are nice and safe in the hollow earth with the many other people's who avoided us, they are all the natural inhabitants of this planet, while we are the alien halfbreeds.


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