He added, "Rather than claiming that such extreme body and brain size dwarfism cannot occur (on a widespread scale), we now have accepted that that happened and can shift to the next question as to why that happened and on what mechanism."
Aida Gómez-Robles, a scientist at George Washington University specializing in human evolution, explained that one theory about the Hobbits says they shrunk in size by a process called island dwarfing. This refers to an extreme reduction in size due to the absence of predators and to resource scarcity that is typical of island ecosystems.
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When the Hobbit remains were first found, the researchers also discovered evidence for a pygmy elephant, suggesting that a pachyderm also underwent island dwarfing at Flores.
Gómez-Robles told Discovery News that the two new papers are important because "they demonstrate that the origin of Homo floresiensis is very old, which confirms that this is a totally valid species with old evolutionary roots."
This has two important implications.
"The first one is that the very small size that is characteristic of Homo floresiensis may have evolved over a very short period of time," she said. "The second one is that this small size has remained stable over a long period of time because more recent Homo floresiensis remains from the site of Liang Bua are very similar in size to the fossils from Mata Menge, which are the ones described in these new papers."
To this day, people from Indonesia tend to be smaller than other humans. It is possible that the Hobbits interbred with modern humans in the way that Neanderthals did, but more finds would be needed to figure out what happened to this still mysterious island population.
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