Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 5th, 2008
The Homo floresiensis debate has been reenergized again with the publication of a new paper in the journal Proc. R. Soc. B doi:10.1098/rspb.2007.1488.
The following is a clickable link to the full paper, the abstract of which is below the link.
Are the small human-like fossils found on Flores human endemic cretins? by Peter J. Obendorf, Charles E. Oxnard and Ben J. Kefford.
Fossils from Liang Bua ( LB) on Flores, Indonesia, including a nearly complete skeleton ( LB1) dated to 18 kyr BP, were assigned to a new species, Homo floresiensis. We hypothesize that these individuals are myxoedematous endemic (ME ) cretins, part of an inland population of (mostly unaffected) Homo sapiens. ME cretins are born without a functioning thyroid; their congenital hypothyroidism leads to severe dwarfism and reduced brain size, but less severe mental retardation and motor disability than neurological
endemic cretins. We show that the fossils display many signs of congenital hypothyroidism, including enlarged pituitary fossa, and that distinctive primitive features of LB1 such as the double rooted lower premolar and the primitive wrist morphology are consistent with the hypothesis. We find that the null hypothesis (that LB1 is not a cretin) is rejected by the pituitar y fossa size of LB1, and by multivariate analyses of cranial measures. We show that critical environmental factors were potentially present on Flores, how remains of cretins but not of unaffected individuals could be preserved in caves, and that extant oral traditions may provide a record of cretinism.