SnF Heff; was a great read and I'm quite fond of the little guys myself.
Homo floresiensis ("Flores Man", nicknamed "hobbit" and "Flo") is a possible species, now extinct, in the genus Homo. The remains were discovered in 2003 on the island of Flores in Indonesia. Partial skeletons of nine individuals have been recovered, including one complete cranium (skull). These remains have been the subject of intense research to determine whether they represent a species distinct from modern humans, and the progress of this scientific controversy has been closely followed by the news media at large. This hominin is remarkable for its small body and brain and for its survival until relatively recent times (possibly as recently as 12,000 years ago). Recovered alongside the skeletal remains were stone tools from archaeological horizons ranging from 94,000 to 13,000 years ago.
The discoverers (archaeologist Mike Morwood and colleagues) proposed that a variety of features, both primitive and derived, identify these individuals as belonging to a new species, H. floresiensis, within the taxonomic tribe of Hominini. Hominini currently comprises the extant species Homo sapiens (the only living member of the genus Homo), bonobo (genus Pan), and chimpanzee (genus Pan); their ancestors; and the extinct lineages of their common ancestor. The discoverers also proposed that H. floresiensis lived contemporaneously with modern humans on Flores.
Doubts that the remains constitute a new species were soon voiced by the Indonesian anthropologist Teuku Jacob, who suggested that the skull of LB1 was a microcephalic modern human. Two studies by paleoneurologist Dean Falk and her colleagues (2005, 2007) rejected this possibility. Falk et al. (2005) has been rejected by Martin et al. (2006) and Jacob et al. (2006), but defended by Morwood (2005) and Argue, Donlon et al. (2006).
Two orthopedic researches published in 2007 both reported evidence to support species status for H. floresiensis. A study of three tokens of carpal (wrist) bones concluded there were similarities to the carpal bones of a chimpanzee or an early hominin such as Australopithecus and also differences from the bones of modern humans. A study of the bones and joints of the arm, shoulder, and lower limbs also concluded that H. floresiensis was more similar to early humans and apes than modern humans. In 2009, the publication of a cladistic analysis and a study of comparative body measurements provided further support for the hypothesis that H. floresiensis and Homo sapiens are separate species.
Critics of the claim for species status continue to believe that these individuals are Homo sapiens possessing pathologies of anatomy and physiology. A second hypothesis in this category is that the individuals were born without a functioning thyroid, resulting in a type of endemic cretinism (myxoedematous, ME)
Reconstructed Face of Extinct “Hobbit” Species Is Startlingly Humanlike
Once upon a time a tiny human species with large feet shared the planet with our own kind. It hunted giant rats and miniature cousins of the elephant, defended its kills from monstrous storks and dodged fearsome dragons. This is not the plot of a lost Tolkien book. This really happened. I’m referring, of course, to our extinct relative Homo floresiensis, which lived on the island of Flores in Indonesia as recently as 17,000 years ago and has for obvious reasons been dubbed the hobbit. It turns out that despite the species’ small size, it may have looked rather familiar, according to a scientific reconstruction.
The Flores hobbit is known best from a relatively complete skeleton of an adult female known as LB1 who stood roughly a meter tall and possessed a brain less than a third of the size of our own.
One intriguing theory holds that the hobbits may indicate that human ancestors left Africa far earlier than previously supposed. Conventional wisdom holds that the australopithecines never made it out of the mother land, leaving it to taller, larger-brained Homo to colonize the rest of the old world. But maybe, some researchers have suggested, the hobbits were a remnant population of australopithecine that made it out of Africa early on.
Pygmy is a term used for various ethnic groups worldwide whose average height is unusually short; anthropologists define pygmy as any group whose adult men grow to less than 150 cm (59 inches) in average height. A member of a slightly taller group is termed "pygmoid." The best known pygmies are the Aka, Efé and Mbuti of central Africa. There are also pygmies in Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Andaman Islands Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and Brazil. The term also includes the Negritos of Southeast Asia.
In addition to a small body size, H. floresiensis had a remarkably small brain. The brain of the holotype LB1 is estimated to have had a volume of 380 cm3 (23 cu in), placing it at the lower range of chimpanzees or the extinct australopithecines. LB1's brain size is half that of its presumed immediate ancestor, H. erectus (980 cm3 (60 cu in)). The brain to body mass ratio of LB1 lies between that of H. erectus and the great apes. Insular dwarfism has been posited to explain the brain size reduction. Scientists at the Natural History Museum in London have found that the reduction in brain size of extinct pygmy hippopotamuses in Madagascar compared with their living relatives is greater than the reduction in body size, and similar to the reduction in brain size of H. floresiensis compared with H. erectus.
"It's not just that their brains are small; they're differently shaped. It's its own species."