Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ebu Gogo: Dumb Species, or Just Dumb Human?

A new article in science suggests that the remains found on an Indonesian island two years ago look more like a busted Homo sapiens than a new species:
Robert D. Martin of the Field Museum in Chicago and coauthors wrote in Friday's issue of the journal Science that the fossil of Homo floresiensis appears to be a modern human with microencephaly, a disorder that results in a small brain and other defects.

Martin argued that the brain of the specimen, discovered in 2003 on the Indonesian island of Flores, is far too small to be a dwarf species. Its brain size of 400 cubic centimeters would indicate a creature 1 foot tall, one-third the size of the actual skeleton.
Link. The Sydney Morning Herald allows representatives of the sides of the dispute to speak:
"There has been too much media hype and too little critical scientific evaluation surrounding this discovery," said Robert Martin of the Field Museum in Chicago.

However, Mike Morwood, co-leader of the Australian and Indonesian team that discovered the remains, dismissed Dr Martin's claims published in the journal Science as bizarre and unsubstantiated. "I'm surprised Science published their study," said Professor Morwood, of the University of New England.
Link. North Carolina's Conservative Voice suggests that these findings prove that man was not descended from monkeys, or something. Then of course there's this old National Geographic article (which we've seen before) that argues that the small brains didn't hold Ebu Gogo back:
Despite having very small brains—roughly the size of a chimpanzee's—they appear to have hunted animals twice their size, made stone tools for hunting and butchering, and used fire for cooking.

"It's remarkable. We've always been taught and thought that as humans evolved, the bigger the brain, the better they are," said Charles Hildebolt, a physical anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

"If this little creature actually made the tools and was using the tools, built the fire and was using the fire, then that really tips human evolution upside down and changes the way we have to think about brain evolution. It may indicate that the reorganization of the brain was just as important and may be even more important than size."

Indexed by tags science, nature, cryptozoology, biology, evolution, ebu gogo, Homo floresiensis, human, microencephaly.


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