Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Monday, April 11, 2005

Hobbit not a pinhead

Those who have been following this particular story will know that Prof. Jacob, whose lab destroyed the jawbones of the newly-discovered Homo floresiensis, while taking a cast of it (possibly through spite but more likely through a failure to supervise a novice technician or student, in my view), also thinks that the specimen is a pathological microcephalic, which, in layspeak, means that the individual has an abnormally small brain that occurred during development, and is not representative of his or her species.

Well it's not. At least, it's not according to an analysis of a "virtual endocast" (that is, a cast of the inside of the braincase made by computer aided tomography - CAT - scans) published this week in Science. The authors compared the Hobbit with a modern woman, a microcephalic human, a chimp, and a Homo erectus skull, all scaled down to the same cranial capacity of 417cm3. There was no indication that it was closely related to humans, or that it was microcephalic, and it is unlikely to have been descended from an erectus population, they claim.

More fun to follow, I imagine...

[Thanks to Stan Gosnell for picking up the mis-spelling of the Hobbit's specific epithet. What can I say? I'm a philosopher, so details don't matter.]