Hob­bits and pyg­mies

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The In­done­sian is­land of Flores made head­lines in 2003 when small hu­man-like skele­tons were dis­cov­ered in a cave. Anal­y­sis re­vealed that they had once be­longed to ho­minins all stand­ing around a me­tre tall, mem­bers of an ex­tinct species known as Homo flo­re­sien­sis. The mod­ern-day in­hab­i­tants of Flores are still much smaller than the av­er­age per­son, and there had long been spec­u­la­tion that Homo flo­re­sien­sis had met Homo sapi­ens and passed on some of the genes for short stature. A new study has now ruled out that the­ory as no trace of Flores ‘Hob­bit’ DNA was found when sci­en­tists stud­ied the genes of the liv­ing pygmy peo­ple, and the orig­i­nal res­i­dents are thought to have died out tens of thou­sands of years ago. With no re­la­tion be­tween the two pop­u­la­tions, small body size must have evolved twice on Flores in re­sponse to the ex­treme con­di­tions on the is­land.

Small stature helps the peo­ple of Flores to sur­vive the chal­lenges of the is­land

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