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The fellowship of the hobbit: the fauna surrounding Homo floresiensis

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The Late Pleistocene Flores fauna shows a pattern observed on many other islands. It is neither aberrant nor exclusive, but the result of non-random selective forces acting upon an impoverished and disharmonic insular fauna. By comparing the Flores vertebrate fauna with other fossil insular biotas, it is apparent that the evolution of Homo floresiensis is part of a general pattern affecting all the inhabitants of Pleistocene Flores. Vertebrate evolution on Flores appears to have been characterized by phylogenetic continuity, low species richness and a disharmonic fauna. All three aspects stem from the isolated position of the island and have resulted in the distinct morphological characteristics of the Flores fauna. Evidence reviewed herein shows that features exhibited by H. floresiensis, such as small stature, a small brain, relatively long arms, robust lower limbs and long feet, are not unique, but are shared by other insular taxa. Therefore, the evolution of H. floresiensis can be explained by existing models of insular evolution and followed evolutionary pathways similar to those of the other terrestrial vertebrates inhabiting Pleistocene Flores.

Keywords: Dwarfing; Flores; Homo floresiensis; Indonesia; gigantism; insular evolution; unbalanced island faunas

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis, PO Box 9517, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands

Publication date: 2010-06-01

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