It's easy to think that evolution led inevitably to modern humans, the cleverest of apes. But there were some strange excursions along the way. Take, for example, the Hobbits.
That's the nickname for a 3-foot-tall human relative that once lived in what is now Indonesia. A new discovery suggests that it was island life that created this dainty creature.
Anthropologists first found the bones of the Hobbits in 2004 on the Indonesian island of Flores. Their scientific name is Homo floresiensis.They were chimp-size, with tiny brains and long arms, but they had stone tools and teeth much like ours. They lived about 60,000 years ago. Who were they? One idea had it that larger human ancestors from Africa — likelyHomo erectus — ended up on this island. Then they shrank, because on islands, animals sometimes evolve to become smaller. But up to that point, there was no evidence that this "island dwarfism" applied to human ancestors, and people had a hard time accepting it.There are dwarf elephants fossils, too, rather like the Channel Island Pygmy Mammoths.