Dwarf Gene Discovery: Explanation for Hobbit Species?

'Wild Suggestions'

But, Charles Hildebolt, a physical anthropologist at Washington University who has worked with Florida State University paleontologist Dean Falk in the study of Homo floresiensis, said that pegging the characteristics of the hobbits to this mutation is an example of a "pathology of the week" in the continuing debate over the origin of the mysterious hominids.

"Chances are, there will be people who jump on the bandwagon with their pathology of the week to explain [the hobbits]," he said. "One just needs to look carefully at the published studies before making wild suggestions.

"I don't think this adds a whole lot to the debate. The claims here do not provide any real data; they just make these suggestions at the end of the paper."

He said that many characteristics of Homo floresiensis identified in other research over the past three years defy the conditions brought about by the gene mutation.

He added that a study led by Falk just last year even compared the brain structure of modern-day dwarfs and normal humans with the likely brain structure of the hobbit. And he says the hobbit brain structure differed from both modern-day examples.

"Obviously the researchers did not read this study."

And Hildebolt added that other characteristics — such as the presence or absence of a chin and prominent brow ridge, or leg length relative to body size — also suggest the hobbits of Flores Island did not owe their appearance and stature to this gene mutation.

He said that with these findings in mind, it would be premature to relegate the existence of Homo floresiensis to a genetic quirk, rather than according them status as a species of their own.

"This pathology has a fun conclusion, but the evidence they provide in support of this conclusion is just not too convincing to me," Hildebolt said.

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