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Homo floresiensis

Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, Deanne Erdmann, MS, and Sonia Rahmati Clayton, PhD

Taxonomy of the New Species

A number of factors help biologists decide whether an organism belongs to a new species. In the case of Homo floresiensis, the new hominid presented a unique combination of primitive and more recently evolved (derived) features not found in any other taxon. Some of the important characteristics used to differentiate among hominids are: brain size (earlier hominids had brains with volumes around 400-450 cm3, while modern humans have brains averaging 1,300 cm3); jaw shape (during human evolution, jaws have become less elongated, with the development of more pronounced chins); and bipedal posture (whether or not they walked on two legs). Homo floresiensis presents a small brain volume, but has facial and dental features more similar to Homo erectus, the closest known relative to modern humans. In addition, Homo floresiensis appears to have walked on two legs.

The Family Hominidae contains humans, great apes and their extinct relatives (http://tolweb.org/tree?group=Hominidae). Members of this family also are referred to as "hominids." The Tribe Hominini consists of several, related genera (Homo, Ardipithecus Australopithecus and Paranthropus) with bipedal posture, among other shared, derived characteristics. Members of this tribe are called "hominins." Current evidence now points toward three species of the genus Homo: Homo sapiens (modern humans), Homo erectus and Homo floresiensis.