In Brief: Paleontology

October 14, 2005|By DENNIS O'BRIEN | DENNIS O'BRIEN,SUN STAFF

More bones of tiny people are found

Australian researchers digging in a cave on a remote Indonesian island say they've turned up more bones establishing the ancient presence of tiny, hobbit-like people, a discovery that shook the world of paleontology last year.

The findings, announced in the journal Nature, include a jaw bone, an assortment of leg, back, toe and finger bones and the right arm of a woman whose skull was found in 2003.

Researchers from the University of New England in Australia say the bones provide further evidence that Homo floresiensis lived on the island of Flores as recently as 12,000 years ago. They were a little over 3 feet tall, weighed about 55 pounds and had brains a third the size of ours - smaller than today's chimpanzees.

But critics are still convinced the skull belonged to a modern human suffering from microcephaly, a condition that produces an abnormally small brain. None of the other remains proves anything about the size of the people who used the cave in Liang Bua, they say.

"I think what they've found is just a small individual with a tiny brain," said Robert Martin, an expert on primate brains at the Field Museum in Chicago. Martin and colleagues plan to publish a scientific paper questioning the Indonesian findings.

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