Hobbit's brain, though small, was souped up with complex intelligence

Washington, April 4: An analysis of the inner surface of an 18,000-year-old skull assigned to Homo floresiensis, a species also known as the 'hobbit', indicates that this tiny individual possessed a small brain blessed with souped-up intellectual capacities needed for activities such as making stone tools.

The analysis was made by anthropologist Dean Falk of Florida State University in Tallahassee, US.

According to Falk, 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 compared a cast of the cranium's inner surface, or endocast, obtained from the partial hobbit skeleton LB1 to endocasts from both modern humans and from other fossil skulls in the human evolutionary family, called hominids for short.

These casts bring into relief impressions made by various anatomical landmarks on the brain's surface.

"LB1 reveals that significant cortical reorganization was sustained in ape-sized brains of at least one hominid species," Falk said.

Evidence has shown that some hominid species experienced marked increases in brain size over time, but that neural reorganization took center stage for others, including hobbits, she proposed.

Currently, no one knows whether a large-bodied or small-bodied species gave rise to hobbits, whose fossils have been found on the Indonesian island of Flores.

Although small in size, LB1's endocast displays a humanlike shape, Falk asserted.

An endocast from Australopithecus africanus, a roughly 3-million-year-old South African hominid species, looks similar to that of LB1, Falk said.

"Yet unlike the earlier A. africanus, LB1 possessed a set of brain features that other researchers have implicated in complex forms of thinking by people today," she said.

These features ran from the back to the front of the brain.

Traits such as expanded frontal lobes and enlarged regions devoted to integrating information from disparate areas would have supported creative and innovative thinking, in Falk's view.

Copyright Asian News International/DailyIndia.com