London, June 28 (ANI): Homo floresiensis, dubbed the 'hobbit', who inhabited the Indonesian island of Flores some 13,000 years ago were not malformed humans, scientists have confirmed.
When the remains of a tiny, 18,000-year-old female were uncovered in 2003 scientists thought they belonged to a unique species of hominin.
Then in 2008, Peter Obendorf of RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, claimed the remains were of a modern human with cretinism, a disease caused by iodine deficiency.
However, another Australian researcher has now overturned the claim on its head.
"I have put that claim to rest," The New Scientists quoted Colin Groves of the Australian National University in Canberra, as saying.
Groves compared the Flores bones with those of 10 people who'd had cretinism, focusing on anatomical features that are typical of the disease.
He found no overlap.
Groves' research appears in the journal of Journal of Comparative Human Biology.
Previously, researchers William Jungers and Karen Baab, both from Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York, studied the skeletal remains of the female (LB1), nicknamed "Little Lady of Flores" or "Flo" to confirm the evolutionary path of the hobbit species.
The specimen was remarkably complete and included skull, jaw, arms, legs, hands, and feet that provided researchers with integrated information from an individual fossil.
The cranial capacity of LB1 was just over 400 cm, making it more similar to the brains of a chimpanzee or bipedal "ape-men" of East and South Africa. he skull and jawbone features are much more primitive looking than any normal modern human.
Statistical analysis of skull shapes show modern humans cluster together in one group, microcephalic humans in another and the hobbit along with ancient hominins in a third.
Due to the relative completeness of fossil remains for LB1, the scientists were able to reconstruct a reliable body design that was unlike any modern human.
The thigh bone and shin bone of LB1 are much shorter than modern humans including Central African pygmies, South African KhoeSan and "negrito" pygmies from the Andaman Islands and the Philippines.
Some researchers speculate this could represent an evolutionary reversal correlated with "island dwarfing."
"It is difficult to believe an evolutionary change would lead to less economical movement," said Jungers.
"It makes little sense that this species re-evolved shorter thighs and legs because long hind limbs improve bipedal walking. We suspect that these are primitive retentions instead," he added.
"Attempts to dismiss the hobbits as pathological people have failed repeatedly because the medical diagnoses of dwarfing syndromes and microcephaly bear no resemblance to the unique anatomy of Homo floresiensis," said Baab.
Jungers and Baab concluded that Homo floresiensis is a genuine ancient human species and not a descendant of healthy humans dwarfed by disease. (ANI)