Homo floresiensis: The Argument Continues

According to Yahoo News a new paper is being published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B that will argue that Homo floresiensis was a member of Homo sapiens that suffered from severe iodine deficiency. According to Yahoo News the paper is authored by Charles Oxnard and Peter Obdendorf. I haven’t been able to find the paper on the Proceedings of the Royal Society B website, so I will have to rely on Yahoo’s description. Apparently the paper looks at:

The study focuses on a dimple in the skeleton called the pituitary fossa which houses the pituitary gland.
In the hobbit skeletons, this depression is unusually enlarged and is a hallmark of so-called myxoedematous endemic (ME) cretins, whose brain size is roughly half that of normal, says Obdendorf.
Other telltales of ME cretinism are a double-rooted premolar teeth, primitive wristbones and a poorly-developed chin, which the H. floresiensis camp claim as signs that the hominids are separate species, the study says.

Apparently, this condition even explains the ebu gogo:

The Nage people of central Flores tell tales of ancestors called “ebu gogo” who lived in caves, were short, roughly-built, hairy, pot-bellied and stupid, who stole food, could not cook and had an imperfect language.
“These characteristics are all consistent with ME cretinism,” says the study.

More when the study is published…

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10 Responses

  1. “These characteristics are all consistent with ME cretinism,” says the study.
    You know, I first read that ‘These characteristics are all consistent with ME creationism . . .”
    Weird. First it’s claimed that Neandertals were iodine-deficient cretins, now the hobbits . . . is the salt lobby involved somehow?

  2. Would the people currently living in a similar region on the island show similar iodine deficiency, at least historically?

  3. The problem with the cretinism theory is that it’s really, really hard to get iodine deficient cretinism, particularly endemic cretinism, when you live on a small island surrounded by sea, such that you get a lot of your foodstuff from the sea, and hence enough iodine. Endemic cretinism is a deficiency disease of the continental _interior_.

  4. Weekend_Viking and Shatter both raise valid objections. Also what is the chance of a population of iodine-deficient cretins being able to establish a self-replacing population? Are such people fertile?
    The fact that “The Nage people of central Flores tell tales of ancestors called ‘ebu gogo'” suggests the Hobbits lived until relatively recently.

  5. First of all, I don’t know what I’m talking about. This is more in the line of a question.
    I looked up “Myxedema” in Wikipedia, and it wasn’t clear to me that this condition is associated with iodine deficiency.

  6. Reports on this paper suggest the whole thing is rather speculative, to say the least. The lead scientist is a “human ecologist” rather than paleontologist, and the study did not involve examination of the specimens. Quote from Colin Groves (Australian National University): the paper “also ignored the fact the hobbits had primitive chins unlike those of modern humans”.
    http://www.stephensimmonds.blogspot.com/

  7. Weekend Viking – If a “shaman” told his group that Big Sky JuJu says No to eating fish, or anything from the sea…
    there you go, iodine deficiency. As ordained from The Heavens.

  8. Stephen – I find Groves comment to be somewhat inexplicable in that both Brown and Morwood, in their descriptions of the material, say that LB1 and LB6 lacked chins. Although, having read the article I was not all that impressed.

  9. Stephen – I find Groves comment to be somewhat inexplicable in that both Brown and Morwood, in their descriptions of the material, say that LB1 and LB6 lacked chins. Although, having read the article I was not all that impressed.

  10. I got this link off of the Archaeology.com newsfeed. It seems Professor Maciej Henneberg at the University of Adelaide has written a book, The Hobbit Trap, wherein she claims that one of the fossils had a filling in its tooth, and so it dates back no later than the 1930’s.
    In the article, Peter Brown is quoted as describing Prof. Henneberg’s claims to be “complete lunacy.”
    Very entertaining all around, I say. I mean, c’mon: a filling? Fossilized?
    Anyway, here’s the link:
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23563342-30417,00.html

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