Study: Humans May Have Killed Off Real-Life Hobbits

Homo floresiensis disappeared thousands of years earlier than believed
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2016 5:16 PM CDT
Study: Humans May Have Killed Off Real-Life Hobbits
Workers labor at Liang Bua cave excavation site where the fossils of Homo floresiensis were discovered.   (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

New research suggests it's possible ancient humans are responsible for killing off Indonesia's hobbits (an urge no doubt felt by modern humans who sat through the extended edition of The Hobbit). Starting in 2003 when their remains were first discovered on the island of Flores, scientists believed Homo floresiensis—who averaged 3.5 feet tall and 75 pounds—lived until as recently as 12,000 years ago, National Geographic reports. But a new study published this week in Nature found they actually died off sometime between 60,000 and 50,000 years ago—right around the time humans showed up in the area. "The exact cause of the demise of the hominids … is not yet understood, but in my view, may be related to the appearance in the area of the most aggressive of all hominin species, Homo sapiens, modern humans," one expert tells Discovery.

Discovery calls the timing of the hobbits' disappearance "suspicious," but the study found no proof they were wiped out by humans, and further excavations on Flores are needed. Other possible causes for the extinction of Homo floresiensis include volcanoes, overhunting of pygmy elephants, and climate change. But it's not just their death that is mysterious. Scientists still don't know why these real-life hobbits were so small, how they got to Flores, or if they're even a different species. Some experts have posited they are actually humans suffering from dwarfism or Down syndrome. (Meanwhile, ancient humans having sex with Neanderthals may be why we have allergies.)

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