"Hobbit" Specimen Likely Down Syndrome
The controversy over Homo floresiensis (dubbed the “Hobbit”) continues. In 2003 a fairly intact skull and thigh bones about 18,000 years old was discovered on the island of Flores in Indonesia, and is designated Liang Bua 1 or LB1 after the site of its discovery. Other specimens were found as well, but no other skulls or femurs. Since then scientists have fallen into two camps: those who believe LB1 represents a new hominin species, and those who feel LB1 represents a fully modern human suffering from some developmental abnormality.
A recent analysis of the fossils by an international team concludes that multiple lines of evidence converge on the conclusion that LB1 represents a modern human with Down syndrome (trisomy 21). The small brain, short femurs, and other features are all consistent with this diagnosis.
Researcher Robert Eckhardt states:
“When we first saw these bones, several of us immediately spotted a developmental disturbance, but we did not assign a specific diagnosis because the bones were so fragmentary. Over the years, several lines of evidence have converged on Down syndrome.”
This latest pair of studies seem fairly devastating to the defenders of floresiensis as a new species, but we will just have to wait until they have a chance to respond to this new analysis.
NeuroLogica coverage over the years: