Early human species 'hobbit' may have shrunk due to island dwarfism
London: A study of the remains of the creature nicknamed the "hobbit" shows that there may have been a dwarf version of an early human species.
The diminutive species of human whose remains were found on the Indonesian island of Flores could have shrunk as a result of island dwarfism as it adapted to its environment, the BBC reported.
The hobbit co-existed with our species until 12,000 years ago.
Since its discovery in 2003, researchers have struggled to explain the origins of these metre-high, tiny-brained people, known scientifically as Homo floresiensis .
One popular theory is that the hobbit evolved from a relatively large brained and large bodied human that was prevalent in east Asia, known as Homo erectus.
The theory is that after H. erectus moved to Flores, it began to shrink in size over the generations by a process known as island dwarfism, which has been seen to occur in other species.
Critics though argue that it would be impossible for erectus's brain to shrink so much in relation to its body.
Alternative theories are that these creatures are either a small group of modern humans, Homo sapiens, whose brains and bodies have been prevented from growing normally because of a wasting disease, or that they are descendants of tiny-brained ape-like creatures.
New scans by a Japanese team which includes Dr Yousuke Kaifu of the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, shows that the hobbit's brain was a little larger than previous estimates had suggested.
Moreover, Dr Kaifu and his colleagues have also carried out a comparative analysis of the ratio of brain to body size of present-day humans which they say indicates that it is indeed possible for erectus's brain to have shrunk to the size of the hobbit's.
The research has been published in the Royal Society's Proceedings B Journal.