Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Meanwhile, on Hobbit Island...

Flores, in Indonesia, was home to a group of little folk called Homo floresiensis until around 12,000 years ago. They may have been a separate hominin species, or may have been a tribe of cretinous humans - small bodies, pinheads. I wrote a bit about them last year. They were found in 2004, when the  Lord of the Rings films were fresh in the mind, so were unsurprisingly nicknamed Hobbits.

Anyway - some bones have been found in a cave on the island that seem to have belonged to a giant form of marabou stork, Leptoptilus robustus. Scaling up, it was probably about 180cm tall, which would have been nearly twice the height of the hobbits. Marabous are scary looking enough at their current size, so I expect they were given a wide berth. Not quite a terror bird, but I'd bet it made the hobbits uneasy. The article touches on the possibility of the storks eating babies, but that's purely speculative. Turns the usual stork/baby thing on its head.

The island must have been a strange place - dwarf elephants and humans, giant rats, storks and lizards. Islands are often a source of unusual forms of well-known animals. Cut off from the rest of their population, new species gradually develop, and often change in size. Dwarf forms and giant forms. Without the same predators, food sources and so on, the pressures are different and form eventually reflects that. Hence Darwin's finches and tortoises on the Galapagos, for example. Lilliput and Blefuscu as well, of course.

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