2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
The fate of the Flores hobbits continues to thrill the truth-seeking minds of scientists. Are these the descendants of the Javanese Pithecanthropus, stuck on the paradise island? Or is it the offspring of much more primitive "early Homo", brought in half the world by unknown migration from their native Africa? Or maybe they are generally sick people, whose bones are twisted by terrible syndromes, lack of iodine and extra chromosomes?
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Homo floresiensis. Reconstruction by Anatoly Alexandrov.
Another attempt to illuminate the darkness of the past was made by anthropologists from Australia, the United States and, somewhat unexpectedly, Madagascar (in fact, this is the same American, it is just that Antananarivo does not have its own researchers, so he was given a stake there). A thorough calculation of the parameters of the skull, jaws, teeth and postcranial bones was carried out. The list of materials involved, mostly originals, is really impressive. 133 features were taken into account. All this led to a great conclusion: the hobbits are the descendants of African habilis, much more primitive than even the Dmanis and Ergasters.
BUT! The journalists, of course, spread this news as an unheard-of sensation. However, the idea is not new. The same authors wrote exactly the same thing back in 2006, a couple of years after describing the hobbits. Others, with variations on the theme, repeated this in 2007 and 2008.
What's the news? More features counted? But how is it calculated? Bah! But the good old cluster analysis, which in the right hands can show anything!
Indeed, it does not hurt to take a closer look at the constructed phylogenetic trees. Indeed, hobbits in all variants of analysis are clustered with habilis and opposed to more advanced people. But the subtlety is how these others are clustered. The authors removed the Rudolfensis altogether from the schemes so as not to spoil the picture. On the first and third trees, the dmanisi-ice group is located between the australopithecines and the habilis hobbits, in the second - between the habilis hobbits and erectus ergasters. Afarenses are sometimes more primitive than the Africanus-sedibs, sometimes more progressive. On the next ergasters are closer to people than erectus.
Next, we open the electronic attachment to the article and what do we see? Three more trees. On the first, everything is beautiful, the evolutionary sequence is just like in a textbook, and it is significant that Afarenses are the most primitive among Australopithecines, then Afrikans with Sedibs, Rudolfensis turn out to be the most primitive of Homo, followed by Dmanis with ice, after - hobbits with habilis, then - ergaster erectus and at the end - sapiens. On the second tree, the sapiens are connected with the Dmanisians and are opposed to the erectus-ergaster group, and the rudolfensis, together with the ice, are located between the chimpanzee gorillas and australopithecines in a hopeless distance from people; Afarenses are already more advanced than Afrikanians with Sedibs. In the third scheme, a group of Rudolfensis-Naledi-Dmanisians are stuck between chimpanzees and astralopithecines, afarenses are again the most advanced among Australopithecines, then hobbits, habilis, erectus march, only behind them are ergasters, and the sapiens crown the "march of progress".
What conclusion can we draw from this leapfrog? Curve method! That has been seen hundreds of times from previous works where it was used.
How did it happen? Or maybe it is worth looking at the signs that have gone into action? These are descriptive scoring signs of the type: "the greatest width of the skull is located: 1) on the parietal bones, 2) on the supra-mastoid region", "facial prognathism: 1) prognathous, 2) intermediate, prognathous and mesognathic, 3) orthognathic - not found in the sample" … This is followed by dozens of holes, pimples and grooves in the spirit of "weak, medium, strong", "round, intermediate - round and oval, oval." It is clear, of course, that in order to increase the sample, one can describe this, but anyone who has been at least somewhat involved in craniology knows that descriptive signs can only be auxiliary ones, following the measuring ones. The subjectivity of the description of "weak-medium-strong" is extremely high, especially when comparing such different creatures as orangutan, australopithecus, hobbit and man. How to understand whether the next tubercle is strong, if the size of the bones in different species sometimes differ significantly?
So the greatness of the sensation seems to be not so great. The structure creaks and sways in the wind, the swaying branches of clustered trees are confused and allow for many interpretations. And the mystery of the Flores hobbits continues to excite the minds of scientists seeking truth …
Argue D., Groves C. P., Lee M. S. Y. et Jungers W. L. The affinities of Homo floresiensis based on phylogenetic analyzes of cranial, dental, and postcranial characters, Journal of Human Evolution, 2017.
Argue D., Donlon D., Groves C. et Wright R. Homo floresiensis: Microcephalic, pygmoid, Australopithecus, or Homo ?, Journal of Human Evolution, 2006, V. 51, pp. 360-374.
Argue D., Donlon D., Groves C. et Wright R. Homo floresiensis: Microcephalic, pygmoid, Australopithecus, or Homo ?, Journal of Human Evolution, 2006, V. 57, pp. 219-220.
Gordon AD, Nevell L. et Wood B. The Homo floresiensis cranium (LB1): size, scaling, and early Homo affinities, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 2008, V.105, No. 12, pp. 4650-4655 …
Morwood M. et Van Oosterzee P. The discovery of the hobbit: The scientific breakthrough that changed the face of human history. New York, Random House, 2007