The place of Homo floresiensis in human evolution.

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Baab, Karen
Year of Publication: 2016
Journal: J Anthropol Sci
Volume: 94
Pagination: 5-18
Date Published: 2016 Jun 20
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 2037-0644

Two main evolutionary scenarios have been proposed to explain the presence of the small-bodied and small-brained Homo floresiensis species on the remote Indonesian island of Flores in the Late Pleistocene. According to these two scenarios, H. floresiensis was a dwarfed descendent of H. erectus or a late-surviving remnant of a older lineage, perhaps descended from H. habilis. Each scenario has interesting and important implications for hominin biogeography, body size evolution, brain evolution and morphological convergences. Careful evaluation reveals that only a small number of characters support each of these scenarios uniquely. H. floresiensis exhibits a cranial shape and many cranial characters that appear to be shared derived traits with H. erectus, but postcranial traits are more primitive and resemble those of early Homo or even australopiths. Mandibular and dental traits show a mix of derived and primitive features. Unfortunately, many traits cannot be used to assess these two hypotheses because their distribution in H. erectus, early Homo (e.g., H. habilis), or both is unknown. H. erectus ancestry implies evolutionary convergence on a postcranial configuration similar to australopiths and early Homo, which could be explained by a return to more climbing behaviors. Body size reduction as well as brain size reduction on a scale only rarely documented in mammals would also accompany the origin of H. floresiensis from a H. erectus ancestor. H. habilis ancestry implies parallel evolution of numerous cranial characters, as well as a few dentognathic traits. A pre-H. erectus ancestry also suggests an early migration to Southeast Asia that is as yet undocumented in mainland Asia, but minimal body and brain size reduction.

DOI: 10.4436/JASS.94024
Alternate Journal: J Anthropol Sci