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Did small hominids have a genetic defect?

From Boston, at a meeting of the Endocrine Society

Miniature humans whose prehistoric remains were recently unearthed on an Indonesian island may have had a genetic disease known as Laron syndrome.

The 2004 discovery of Homo floresiensis (SN: 10/30/04, p. 275: Evolutionary Shrinkage: Stone Age Homo find offers small surprise) suggested that this apparently close relative of Homo sapiens may have coexisted with modern humans as recently as 12,000 years ago (see "Little Ancestor, Big Debate," in this week's issue). The most-complete skeleton belonged to a woman who stood about a meter tall.

But the newfound specimens don't represent a distinct species at all, contends Zvi Laron of Tel Aviv University in Israel.

Various genetic mutations can produce Laron syndrome, in which the body is unresponsive to growth hormone. Laron discovered the disorder in 1966.

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