More Bones Support Mini Human CaseMore Bones Support Mini Human Case
The discovery of additional bones in an Indonesian cave support a stunning claim made last year that a new species of a very small hominid existed at the same time as modern humans. Although the bones were tiny--particularly the skull, which had the brain volume of a chimpanzee--the teeth, jaw and cranium were described as similar to those of members of our own genus, Homo. The evidence, including stone tools, signs of fire and the bones of a dwarfed elephantlike beast, dated to about 18,000 years ago and prompted the scientists to assign the human remains to a new species, Homo floresiensis. Rebuttals ensued. Some proposed that the mini-human was a pygmy; others suggested that the skull came from a modern human who had suffered from microcephaly, a birth defect that results in a very small head. Now Morwood, Brown and their colleagues say that various arm, leg, jaw, toe and finger bones as well as a scapula and vertebra were excavated in 2004, bringing the estimated number of individuals represented thus far at Liang Bua to nine and casting doubt on those alternative interpretations. Analysis of the second jaw shows that it is very similar to the first one. Both notably lack a chin, which is a unique characteristic of Homo sapiens, even those that suffer from microcephaly. And further study of the leg and arm bones confirm that H. floresiensis was about a meter tall and had long arms. Modern adult pygmies have legs and arms that are proportional to their short stature. "We can now reconstruct the body proportions with some certainty," the researchers write in the October 13 issue of Nature.