Homo floresiensis, our evolutionary cousin known affectionately as ‘hobbit,’ lived in a land filled with unexpected giant and tiny species. Homo floresiensis lived on the island of Flores, Indonesia, until this species went extinct about 17,000 years ago.
Smithsonian post-doctoral fellow Hanneke Meijer and her colleague Rokus Awe Due recently identified a previously unknown species of carnivorous giant stork, Leptoptilos robustus, from Flores. These 6-foot-tall (1.8 m) meat-eating birds would have towered over the 3.3-foot-tall (1 m) Homo floresiensis! Flores was also home to giant rats and Komodo dragons—the world’s largest living lizards—along with the pygmy elephant Stegodon that stood less than 4 feet tall. A strange world indeed!
These findings were announced November 24, 2010, in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.