May 2, 2019

Sherpa clue: Early human species find at high altitude in Tibet

Photo: Dongju Zhang/Lanzhou University/American Association for the Advancement of Science

The confirmation a 160,000-year-old fossilized jaw unearthed in Tibet belongs to the Denisovans, a species distinct from modern humans and Neanderthals, sheds new light on the hominid and indicates another link to Himalayan people.

Details: A Buddhist monk found half of the lower jaw of the Denisovans, an extinct sister group of Neanderthals, in a cave in the 1980s. He gave it to a local religious leader before it reached scientists, who studied it for 9 years. Previous bone fragment discoveries and DNA analysis led to the hypothesis that the Denisovans lived near Siberia, but the new study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, confirms the Denisovans were more widespread.

The big picture: Previous genetic studies found present-day Himalayan populations —including the Sherpa, known for their speed-climbing records — carry a gene adaptation passed on to them by Denisovans, which helps them to adapt to high altitudes, but this is the first time the hominid has been found in such an environment.

What they're saying: "Archaic hominins occupied the Tibetan Plateau in the Middle Pleistocene and successfully adapted to high-altitude low-oxygen environments long before the regional arrival of modern Homo sapiens," Lanzhou University scientist Dongju Zhang said in a news release.

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Biden formally secures Democratic presidential nomination

Joe Biden speaks at Delaware State University's student cente on June 5. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden became the formal Democratic presidential nominee on Friday evening, per AP.

The big picture: Biden has been the presumptive frontrunner to take on President Trump since Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign in early April.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 6,724.516 — Total deaths: 394,018 — Total recoveries — 2,996,832Map.
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  5. Jobs: Better-than-expected jobs report boosts stock market.
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Scoop: German foreign minister to travel to Israel with warning on annexation

Heiko Maas. Photo: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to travel to Israel next week to warn that there will be consequences if Israeli leaders move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, Israeli officials and European diplomats tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli and European officials agree that if Israel goes ahead with unilateral annexation, the EU will respond with sanctions.