Did small hominids have a genetic defect?
Miniature humans whose prehistoric remains were recently unearthed Unearthed is the name of a Triple J project to find and "dig up" (hence the name) hidden talent in regional Australia.
Unearthed has had three incarnations - they first visited each region of Australia where Triple J had a transmitter - 41 regions in all. on an Indonesian island may have had a genetic disease known as Laron syndrome.
The 2004 discovery of Homo floresiensis (SN: 10/30/04, p. 275) suggested that this apparently close relative of Homo sapiens may have coexisted with modern humans as recently as 12,000 years ago (see page 37). The most-complete skeleton belonged to a woman who stood about a meter tall.
But the newfound specimens don't represent a distinct species at all, contends Zvi Laron of Tel Aviv University Tel Aviv University (TAU, אוניברסיטת תל־אביב, את"א) is Israel's largest on-site university. in Israel.
Various genetic mutations can produce Laron syndrome, in which the body is unresponsive to growth hormone growth hormone or somatotropin (sōmăt'ətrō`pən), glycoprotein hormone released by the anterior pituitary gland that is necessary for normal skeletal growth in humans (see protein). . Laron discovered the disorder in 1966.
Now, he and his team have compared X rays of patients with Laron syndrome--who in Israel range from 108 to 136 centimeters in height--with data on H.floresiensis. They found numerous parallels: a pronounced ridge above the eyes, absence of a particular sinus in the head, and limbs that are abnormally short in proportion to the trunk.
Laron says that he would need to test DNA DNA: see nucleic acid.
or deoxyribonucleic acid
One of two types of nucleic acid (the other is RNA); a complex organic compound found in all living cells and many viruses. It is the chemical substance of genes. samples from the miniature hominids to prove his hypothesis. But it's difficult to extract DNA from such old bones.
"It's a nice theory," comments Ashley Grossman of Queen Mary, University of London It is a research-based university, with a strong international reputation, and with twenty-four percent of its students coming from abroad. Queen Mary incorporates several leading international research units such as the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, the . "It's going to be hard to substantiate."--B.H.