The bones of Homo floresiensis that caused such a stir two years ago (10/27/2004) are human ancestors of the current population of pygmies living on the island today, not a new species, according to a press release from Penn State. The individual with the small skull (LB1) suffered from microcephaly and the rest of the characteristics represent normal variation within human populations. The team of Teuku Jacob and Robert B. Eckhardt, publishing their work in PNAS,1 explained that the misidentification of the skulls came from comparing them with Europeans instead of those from the far east.
Based on the earlier announcements, some, including Nature editor Henry Gee, had remarked that the discovery of these small-boned humans would represent a challenge to creationist beliefs; but then, it was difficult for evolutionists to explain what hominid group this population descended from and how they got to the Indonesian island of Flores. One team member summarized their conclusion: “LB1 is not a normal member of a new species, but an abnormal member of our own.” See also the review of this story on Live Science. On the other side of the debate, Science Now claims that opponents of this interpretation are lining up, ready to debunk it.
1T. Jacob, “Pygmoid Australomelanesian Homo sapiens skeletal remains from Liang Bua, Flores: Population affinities and pathological abnormalities,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0605563103, published online before print August 23, 2006.
Do you think National Geographic will now retract their infamous racist artwork of a black, primitive-looking miniature ape-man with prey over his shoulder? That piece of fiction was propagated all over the news. Let’s hear a retraction, NG.