Several commentators have put out their theory that flores man had a small bodied ancestor like an austrailopithocine and there was unsurprisingly a lot of backlash against this idea with many palaeontologists stating it had to be an erectus descendent.
Personally I think flores man had a small bodied ancestor. A favouraite of mine Jeff meldrum was one of the first to point out that the hips, wrist and feet were quite similar to an austrailopithocine. I recognise that species can suffer from insular dwarfisim but these creatures had developments in their brain that would have needed quite a bit of energy to sustain anyway. They were getting enough food to support an high energy organ like the brain so I cant see how they were affected by insular dwarfisim.
Whats the view here?
I don´t know much about hominins (isn´t that something ironic to say) or about Homo floresiensis... but it is certainly interesting that it has so much in common with australopithecines... maybe the australopithecines were much more widespread than we thought- I wouldn´t find that strange. I mean, it has often been said that they didn´t leave Africa until their brain was large enough and they were larger with longer legs or whatever, yet plenty of other animals left Africa without having to undergo any significant change. Take baboons for example, they appeared in Africa and eventually reached as far as India- including some very specialized baboon kinds like Theropithecus. Why wouldn´t an adaptable oportunist like an australopithecine be able to leave Africa and reach Asia as well?
Just my thoughts...
Hmmm. The problem I'd personally have with the australopithecine out of Africa model isn't the bone evidence that Dr Meldrum has made some good points on. My problem is dietary. They were herbivorous. Unless a species is a grass eater or the like, it tends to narrow down, slow down or even stop migratory options. Certainly when compared to a carnivore or omnivore. A slightly different ecosystem and you have a load of different plants, any one of which may be poisonous. Carnivores have it easy. If it crawls runs or breathes you can chow down. There are very few poisonous animals out there. Venomous yes, but so long as you avoid the poison sacs you can happily eat a cobra. Erectus had significantly more meat in his diet. This would have made it easier for them to move and spread. Plus animal based diets tend to be more bang for the buck calorie and nutrient wise. Herbivores need to eat much more volume of food than carnivores. Us? three squares a day and can survive on less. Gorillas? Never stop eating.
Flores appears to be another carnivore/omnivore. So for the australopithecine hypotheses to work, they would have had to change diets, (and body shape) and invent a new tool set along the way. On that point while it's likely they used tools in much the same way as chimps today (maybe a little more sophisticated), they didn't have stone tools as far as we know. Flores man has quite a sophisticated lithic technology. Indeed that has been the surprise, that such a small brain could come up with that. So for me anyway Erectus better fits the bill for the ancestral line of Flores.
Now steddyeddy makes a good point re the brain size. Then again their brain also shrank in volume(but kept much of the higher organisation) along with their bodies.
On Jeff Meldrums take on the bones? Like steddyeddy I've a lot of time for that man for all sorts of reasons. Not afraid to think outa the box for a start. That said the features he cites might also be explained by the dwarfing process itself. Various bone features do change in such a process and not just the obvious overall size one.
Have any studies been made to prove- like really prove- what australopithecines ate? They look like omnivores to me, not necessarily vegans... But like I said I know next to nothing about these guys.
AFAIR they've done isotope testing on the bones and found an almost exclusively plant based diet, though some showed tiny bits of animal intake. Their teeth show wear indicative of tough plant diet. Nuts and seeds and the like. Their teeth also have much thicker dentine to adapt to this kind of diet. Erectus(and Flores) has teeth much closer to ours(though more robust), teeth that even though lacking in carnassial slicing type teeth and large canines of pure predators are actually pretty good at chewing meat and appear to have evolved that way. A gorilla while of a magnitude bigger teeth and stronger bite aren't nearly as efficient at chewing meat as say a 15 year old human.
Body shape wise, australopithecine are more "ape" shaped in the trunk. More like /\ than ||(like Neandertals) or us \/. They look more herbivorous with a larger gut.
Do you think scientists are trying to make Homo floresiensis a "primitive" hominin for the same reason they've been trying to make it a "freak" or "diseased human"- which IMHO is just vile, thinly veiled anthropocentrism?
I dunno, though I really doubt Meldrum would be like that. Quite the opposite. I think the Flores discovery is so out of left field and throws a real spanner in the works re early migration, brain size and intelligence and they lived up until recently(much more recently than Neandertals) that it was bound to have people scratching heads and trying to either jam it into the existing science or kick it out of it. Scientific outliers can do that.
Jamming into existing science or kicking it out of it... I see that happen a lot
Sorry for the delay in replying for scientific threads like this I like to put more thought into a reply.
I dont have a problem with australopithecines migrating across land masses but I do have a problem with a creature like homo erectus under going insular dwarfisim. If anything is an adaptable opertunist its an australopithecine.
I get what your saying Wibbs and their very good points but I think that one of the dangers from drawing inferences about extinct animals from extant ones is that some factors can change everything. Like lowland gorillas who also consume some termites to supplement their diet Australopithocine could have evolved to cope with a diet more suiting an omnivore as it progessed through asia. Regarding infering territorial range from known herbivores I think the fact that lucy and her ilk were bipedal would have increased therr range considerably.
Many ungulates have migrated from asia to africa and back again. An intelligent animal like Lucy or many of the hominids would always be looking towards the horizon. I wouldnt equate their lifestyle with that of the gorilla. It also wouldnt have to be an australopithocine for the theory to work.
Now in the case of the African lads and lasses, this dwarfism occurred in the last 60,000 years, Erectus had much longer to do so and under higher selective pressures.
True but it's a teeny tiny part of their diet. Possibly. Bipedal certainly, but nowhere as bipedal as Erectus. Hell we're not as "bipedal" as Erectus. If one ever shows up at the Olympics in the sprint events, watch Usain Bolt lose for a change.
Yep, but like I noted in the previous post S, grass eaters have an advantage in that grass grows pretty much everywhere. Most ungulates are "grass eaters". In the middle of the night you could drop a few wildebeest into a farm in west Cork and they'd happily munch down. Might even be better off given the Irish grass is higher in nutrients and the lack of lions a distinct advantage. Might confuse the fook outa the farmer mind you, so if you do this don't come crying to me if a maddened Corkman takes a shotgun to you. Lucy was a nut, seed, plant eater. Likely many of these sources were local.
Another (Big)issue with this idea is while we have Erectus happily outside Africa before Flores man, we have zero evidence for australopithecines outside Africa at any time.
So to recap...
A diet that would likely limit large scale migration.
No stone tool technology.
No evidence of australopithecines outside Africa.
No evidence of cultural thought.
More carnivorous diet.
Stone technology(flakes, handaxes, cutting flakes)
Lots of evidence of erectus outside Africa before Flores.
Cultural thought(handaxe design, symmetry in same. I'd reckon more, but that's just me )
More carnivorous diet.
Stone technology(flakes, handaxes, cutting flakes)
So australopithecines would have to radically change diet, get smarter brains, develop a lithic technology(remarkably similar to Erectus), tame fire, find the need and will to migrate a couple of thousand miles without leaving evidence of this migration, become seafarers and magically appear in Flores. Whereas Erectus had all of that and a wanderlust that would put a 22 year old Australian to shame.
For me, at least, the balance of evidence is so in favour of Erectus or maybe slightly later hominid* as the origin species of Flores that the australopithecine idea really doesn't stand up. TBH I'd like it to, but really can't see it.
*My personal take is that they may be dwarf versions of some post Erectus human. Reasoning? The stone tools associated with them are more advanced than Erectus, they only go back definitively to 100,000 odd years too(there are apparently older tools going back to 800,000 years, but to my eye anyway are morphologically distinct from the later Flores lithics). Now parallel evolution is well possible and I certainly believe that Erectus and others were more clever than we think currently. After all it wasn't so long ago we thought of Neandertals as being hunched over apes. Flores man does have a tiny brain, however their prefrontal cortex is just below the low end of modern peoples and higher than Erectus, even with this small size. Size ain't everything, it's what you do with it said the bishop to the actress. The higher bit and the advanced tool kit interests me.
Modern humans are very related. Much more than archaics anyway and there were different archaics out there. This is the first time in human history where there is only one human knocking around. My personal take is that Flores man ancestor was one of the "Asian Erectus II" species. Their early version of Neandertal, an Asian Heidelbergensis. Maybe one of the proto Denisovan folks. After all modern people in that neck of the woods carry even more of that heritage than Europeans do of Neandertal. This would explain more for me than the dwarf erectus idea. I wonder has anyone looked at how similar the bone morphology is between Neandertal/Heidelbergensis and Flores?
I want more details on H. erectus anatomy! Were they really as fast as you say? o-o Do tell more!
As for all the changes australopithecines would have to undergo to become H. floresiensis... isn´t that what evolution is all about? Some species have evolved in incredibly short periods of time. Why can´t the same changes happen twice in the history of hominins?
Im not defending the australopithecine idea or going against it, I just wonder...
Oh sure, I agree, however while we can see the evolution and migration of erectus coming out of Africa and making it to east Asia, we have no evidence of Lucy's kind doing so. I'd buy this idea more if we had evidence of australopithecines evolving different diet strategies or lithic technology or evidence of a presence in Asia, or even anywhere outside Africa, but we don't. It's too much of a stretch for me. If you find a dead body with a gunshot wound, you don't issue an arrest warrant for a guy with a bow and arrow.
It seems they have. Had a bit of a Google earlier and their wrist and shoulder anatomy is pre Neandertal, more erectus(and different to Lucy) so we're back to insular erectus evolution as an origin. Also found more images of their stone tools and to my eye anyway they're not as advanced as some seem to be saying/claiming. IE Items described as "blades", a technology change considered a major step in human tool tech. Well they really dont look like blades to me. More hard hammer percussion flakes that more by luck than judgement ended up kinda blade like. They're a little more advanced than Erectus, but not by much.
Slightly off topic, but I had no idea there were so many recognised* sub species of H. erectus.
*I say 'recognised', but some are quite controversial.
The problem with hominid research is the rarity in the fossil record. This seems to drive each new fragment into hyperbole and the researchers want the holy grail, a "new" hominid with their name attached. Some of the finds and extrapolations from them are IMHO a bit daft. Some big names in the field have really stretched it. My take would be of fossils from roughly the same time is that they're just regional and individual variation in the one species and that Erectus had a pretty big range of these variations. I mean we're very closely related as moderns, the same species, yet a very robust native Aussie or European has a fair few diffs in the skull to a very gracile Asian. Plus fragments of skull don't tell you gender diffs. Even in moderns where male/female diffs are very reduced men have more robust skulls. In Erectus' case there is evidence for this from the Georgian site. In jaw size there is a huge diff between individuals from the same time. One makes Judge Dredd look chinless, yet another is very dainty. If only one or the other was found I'd reckon researchers would be claiming new subspecies. If it was one of the Leakey's I'd put money on that.
I'm quite sure regional differences and major changes over time were going on with erectus. Of course, after all they gave rise to at least four new species(though I'd prefer subspecies as a title in this case), Neandertals, us, Flores and Denisovans. We're all Erectus 2.0 really. Well Flores might be more Erectus 1.5. And with every passing month we're seeing that genetically we seem to have felt the same species and got down to some horizontal jogging. Ain't love grand