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Saturday, October 30, 2004

Evolving humans had tiny 'Hobbit' cousins till very recently

Fossils of around eight very small human-like creatures have been found on the Indonesia island of Flores. Reports in Nature suggest they walked upright and had fire, tools and probably language. But even the adults were only the height of a three-year old child, and had a brain just a quarter the size of a modern human.

What's more, the individuals in the Flores cave lived recently - between 18,000 and 12,000 years ago. Others of the species may even have survived into historic times.

According to Peter Brown, who led the science team, the find's importance "is not in the evolutionary story of modern humans, but in how the broad group from which modern humans evolved may have adapted to different ecosystems. Prior to this finding it would not have been thought that a hominin with the brain size of H. floresiensis could make the type of tools associated with the skeleton, or even get to Flores at all."

The Australian quotes another member of the team who predicts more such finds will turn up on other islands in the area.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

GM cat promises relief to allergy sufferers

But is it ethically correct? Nice story in The Scotsman about an attempt to breed a genetically-modified pet that won't make people sneeze.

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