Monday, April 23, 2007

The Island Shrank Ebu Gogo

The Good Reverend's favorite legendary hominid, ebu gogo, more properly deemed Homo floresiensis, took on his tiny stature as an adaptation to life on the island of Flores, according to Imperial College evolutionary zoologists:
This tendency is called the 'island rule'. It stipulates that because food on a small island is limited, smaller species do relatively well and often get bigger over time compared to their mainland relatives. This is because they can manage well on little resources and out-compete bigger species.

Larger species, on the other hand, face fierce competition for a small amount of food and become smaller, because those members that eat less have an advantage.

. . . .

True enough, small primate species (ones weighing less than five kilograms) all pumped up compared to their mainland relatives. But they also found that all the larger primates became smaller - by as much as 50 to 80 per cent.

That fits in well with what we know of H.floresiensis, who was around 55 percent of the mass of a modern Indonesian and probably 52 percent of an H.erectus.

So the evidence backs the idea that the hobbits were an 'insular dwarf race' – humans who became smaller, possibly after the island separated from the mainland and left them marooned with diminished food resources. The authors refuse, though, to wade into the debate as to whether the hobbits were H. erectus or H. sapiens.
Link. I knew there was something special about that island.

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Blogger bertbaby said...

This is a great story and we’ll know more once the original research team gets back to the caves in Flores. Hard to believe, but their work was halted by the Indonesian government at one point. There is more on this ongoing controversy about Homo floresiensis at

2:50 PM  

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