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Hobbit brain small, but organized for complex intelligence

Evolution may have endowed a controversial species with small but humanlike brains equipped to support advanced thinking

CHICAGO — In the strange and contentious world of fossil hobbits, a chimp-sized brain may boast humanlike powers. An analysis of the inner surface of an 18,000-year–old skull assigned to Homo floresiensis, a species also known as hobbits, indicates that this tiny individual possessed a brain blessed with souped-up intellectual capacities needed for activities such as making stone tools, says anthropologist Dean Falk of Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Even as H. floresiensis evolved a relatively diminutive brain, the species underwent substantial neural reorganization that allowed its members to think much like people do, Falk contended on April 2 in a presentation at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists annual meeting. She also reported the findings in a paper published online February 28 in the Journal of Human Evolution.

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