Alien From Earth
Compare the Brains
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Compare the Brains

Who was the so-called Flores hobbit, the three-foot-tall, 18,000-year-old skeleton found in Indonesia in 2003? More precisely, what was she? Was she a tiny descendant of Homo erectus? A modern human dwarfed by disease or genetic defect? Or a new species entirely, as its discoverers proposed, giving it the name Homo floresiensis? Paleoanthropologists and other experts are still trying to answer these and other basic questions about this diminutive creature (including whether the skeleton belonged to a male rather than a female, as originally reported). One of the most highly regarded attempts to determine the hobbit's true ancestry was undertaken by Dean Falk of Florida State University and colleagues, who used computers to compare the size and shape of the hobbit's brain with those of a modern human, a Homo erectus, and other members of the great-ape line.* In this slide show, see how the hobbit's brain measured up—and the novel conclusion that Falk's team reached.—Peter Tyson & Rachel VanCott

*See Falk, D. et al., "The Brain of LB1, Homo floresiensis." Science 308, 242-45 (2005).

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