Hobbits ‘are a separate species’

So says the BBC.
For someone like me, who’s aware of the context (and hasn’t read the latest issue of Nature yet), this phrase made perfect sense. But you have to wonder how the average BBC website reader reacted to seeing that headline on the front page…

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Hobbits ‘are a separate species’

  1. Henry Gee says:

    Crumbs. That’s a blow, You gotta wonder about Ents, though.

  2. Cath Ennis says:

    The bloke who cut me off this morning by going the wrong way around a roundabout, without signalling, was almost certainly an orc.

  3. Eric Michael Johnson says:

    Yes, Homo floriensis has been their designation for some time now. What’s fascinating to consider is that island living tends to select for smaller stature (just like in other island species such as the pygmy rhino or the, now extinct, pygmy elephant). Bristol was once even home to pygmy dinosaurs. Of course, the most important question now is whether Nelwyns and Hobbits represent distinct species, or was merely the result of George Lucas plagiarizing from an iconic author.

  4. Cath Ennis says:

    That’s interesting, Eric. Has anyone come up with a convincing explanation for this selection?
    FYI, on one of those Facebook quizzes, I came out as an Ent. I was pretty happy with that, I like their “laid back until pushed, and then as angry and destructive as hell” attitude.

  5. Eric Michael Johnson says:

    There are two competing theories at the moment. The first is that the larger Homo erectus became trapped in an isolated environment that lacked smaller apes, monkeys or flightless mammals and they adapted to fill that niche. The other is that islands lack the overall resource abundance of larger land masses, which selected for smaller stature. Jared Diamond has an entertaining and informative review in Science from a few years back.

  6. Jennifer Rohn says:

    Cath, it might help to know that H. floriensis was widely reported the first time around with the nickname ‘hobbit’, from tabloids to broadsheets as well as the BBC newss, so it actually won’t have confused anyone here.

  7. Bob O'Hara says:

    Hm. So they didn’t carry out the definitive test, and try to mate with them, then?

  8. Henry Gee says:

    CORRECTION, people. It’s not floriensis but floresiensis. In the original manuscript the critter was called floresianus until the referees pointed out that this meant ‘flowery anus’. I swear I’m not making this up.

  9. Åsa Karlström says:

    Cath I like their “laid back until pushed, and then as angry and destructive as hell” attitude.
    haha 😀 really?! I just can’t stop giggling now… that is just too funny. [it is a fairly good description of how you get into trouble though. me? I guess i would be more like… ehh… the people with the axes and the firey temper… 😉 ]

  10. Cath Ennis says:

    Thanks Eric, I’ll read that once I get to work and can get past the pay wall!
    Jenny, I know that, but I’m not sure that people will remember. I know from talking to friends and family who are not scientists that they don’t tend to retain scientific news stories in the same way that I do (and I don’t retain the stories that are more interesting/relevant to them, either). For example I was talking about the West Nile Virus last week, and people didn’t remember any details of those news stories (very prevalent here until a couple of years ago, as the virus moved further West every summer – but nothing in the media since avian flu took over as the big scare story). As part of the same conversation, a friend who’s a computer repair guy was astonished that the rest of us didn’t remember the details of a specific computer virus story from last year.
    Bob, I imagine that THAT paper would meet Henry’s review criteria!
    Henry – seriously??!! I bet there were some red faces when they got those reviews back!
    Åsa, you don’t get into too much trouble if you only erupt every few thousand years, and then make sure you have right (and the numbers) on your side!

  11. Eric Michael Johnson says:

    @Henry – Thanks for the correction. Writing too fast again. Did anyone see the headline at Science Daily? ‘Hobbits’ Couldn’t Hustle. Classic.

  12. Åsa Karlström says:

    Cath: I guess the number of times of eruption makes all the difference… (again, many eruptions over here 😉 ) happy to hear though. Ents seem to be nice people, helping the hobbits too …

  13. Cath Ennis says:

    There’s more info in the latest Nature podcast (featuring Henry Gee!) if anyone’s interested.

Comments are closed.