Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More very small humans found

An exciting discovery was recently made and just reported on in PLoS One. Several (25ish) individuals of very small and potentially insularly dwarfed humans were found on the island of Palau, which is within spitting distance (relatively speaking of course) of the well known and hotly debated finds from Flores.

title and authors are:

Small-Bodied Humans from Palau, Micronesia

Lee R. Berger, Steven E. Churchill, Bonita De Klerk, Rhonda L. Quinn

Its an open access article so you can get it here.
A blog written about the find has been posted on Anthropolog.net, which you can read here.
These finds are much more recent, dating to the last 3000 years than the ones from Flores, which are 18,000 years old or so. They were found in cave sites which appear to be burial locations as very few artifacts and no other fauna are associated.
The authors interpret the findings as dwarfed homo sapiens rather than some genetic abnormality as has been argued for the Flores finds (and contests as well of course).
There are some similarities between these Paluan finds and the ones from Flores.

Here is the final paragraph of the paper to offer their conclusions:

"Based on the evidence from Palau, we hypothesize that reduction in the size of the face and chin, large dental size and other features noted here may in some cases be correlates of extreme body size reduction in H. sapiens. These features when seen in Flores may be best explained as correlates of small body size in an island adaptation, regardless of taxonomic affinity. Under any circumstances the Palauan sample supports at least the possibility that the Flores hominins are simply an island adapted population of H. sapiens, perhaps with some individuals expressing congenital abnormalities."

It will be interesting to see how the different sides of the Flores arguments react to these findings.
Great stuff. exciting to think about. human biogeography.


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