Thursday, April 14, 2005

Am I shrinking?

This from National Review Online:

You may recall the astonishing reports last year about the discovery of Homo floresiensis, a previously unknown species of human that lived as recently as 13,000 years ago - more recently than the Neanderthals. And unlike the Neanderthals, who are usually described as nasty and brutish, the Flores people were short. A fully grown adult would have been about the same size as one of our kindergartners. When a team of Australian and Indonesian scientists found the first Homo floresiensis, in a cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, its members started referring to her as a "hobbit." The nickname stuck.

How did she get to be so short? And why does John McCain care?

The first question is easy to answer. In biology, there's a form of natural selection known as "island dwarfing." Take a species, put it on an island, and watch it shrink over time. This has led to such oxymoronic phenomena as pygmy mammoths, and the general trend has been observed all over the planet, from Flores in southeast Asia to Malta in the Mediterranean Sea to Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean.

I wonder how long it's going to take for me to shrink to under five feet. I think I'll hold off on buying any new clothes until I'm sure.

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