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Hobbit debate goes out on some limbs

Arm and leg fossils may, or may not, come from nonhuman hominid

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3:21pm, April 19, 2010

ALBUQUERQUE — Two fossil hobbits have given what’s left of their arms and legs to science. That wasn’t enough, though, to quell debate over hobbits’ evolutionary status at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists on April 17.

Since 2004, the discoverers of unusual “hobbit” fossils on the Indonesian island of Flores have attributed their find to a pint-sized species, Homo floresiensis, that lived there from 95,000 to 17,000 years ago. These researchers also suspect, on the basis of hobbit anatomy and recent stone tool discoveries on Flores, that H. floresiensis evolved from a currently unknown hominid species that migrated from Africa to Indonesia more than 1 million years ago.

Critics say the finds represent nothing more than human pygmies like those still living on Flores. In their opinion, the centerpiece hobbit find — a partial skeleton of an adult female known as LB1 &

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