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“Hobbit” species may have been the first humans to migrate from Africa

Head of Homo floresiensis (Tim Evanson/Smithsonian)A team of researchers has found that Homo floresiensis, a tiny prehistoric human species, probably evolved from a primitive ancestor in Africa—and not from the more recent Homo erectus, as has been widely believed. Homo floresiensis lived until about 50,000 years ago on the Indonesian island of Flores. The remains of an adult that would have stood about 1.1 metres (3.5 feet) in height were discovered in 2003 at Liang Bua on the island of Flores in Indonesia. Its short stature gave it the nickname by which the species has become widely known: the “hobbit”.

Map of Indonesia; Flores shown in redUntil recently, many scientists believed that the Homo floresiensis was a relative of Homo erectus (the only other early hominid known to have lived in the region), that had settled on Flores and then evolved to be much shorter. Others suggested the fossil remains discovered were those of modern humans with some kind of physical disorder. Now, according to the team at Australian National University, neither explanation is likely. Homo floresiensis, they say, is descended from humans that left Africa at a different time to Homo erectus.

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