Controversial 'Hobbit Species' Simply May Have Been Early Human With Down Syndrome
When researchers unearthed fragments of several ancient skeletons on the small Indonesian island of Flores a decade ago, they thought they had discovered an entirely new human species. This hominid -- since then known officially as Homo floresiensisand informally as the "hobbit" human -- apparently stood three and one-half feet tall and had a brain about one-third the size of the brains of modern humans.
The discovery caused a stir among paleontologists, many of whom doubted the bones belonged to a new species. As science journalist Tabitha Powledge wrote in a PLOS Biology article in 2006:
The tiny hominid bones... have quickly become as celebrated (and derided) as any find in the tempestuous history of human paleontology. The mystery that shrouds these ancient skeletons... seems to deepen with every study published. Two main camps have emerged, each certain they can settle the question. But many other paleoanthropologists confess they still have no idea.
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