Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

A woolly mammoth tusk discovered in a creek bed on Wrangel Island in 2017. Photo: Love Dalén/Centre for Palaeogenetics, Stockholm University and Swedish Museum of Natural History

Scientists have extracted and sequenced DNA from mammoth specimens that are more than a million years old, the oldest genetic material analyzed to date.

Why it matters: The study pushes back how far researchers can trace genetic changes, allowing them to capture the variations in DNA that occur as new species emerge.

It's "quite close to the limit of what is possible," Love Dalén, an evolutionary geneticist at the Centre for Palaeogenetics in Stockholm and an author of the paper, said in a press briefing Tuesday.

  • "We’re confident it is possible to go beyond 1.2 million years — we see that in our data. How much longer is a pure guess. There is no permafrost in the northern hemisphere older than 2.5 million years."

Details: The researchers extracted DNA from mammoth molars discovered in the Siberian permafrost in the 1970s and combed mammoth DNA from microbe DNA in the highly degraded samples.

  • They then used algorithms to compare the billions of short mammoth genetic sequences to genomes of African and Asian elephants and other mammoths, and then reassemble the mammoth sequences.
  • The researchers dated two of the specimens at around 1.2 million and 1 million years old and a third between 500,000 and 8o0,000 years old, using those DNA sequences and mitochondrial DNA sequences, along with dating of rodents found in the same sediment layers as the mammoth molars.
  • Just about 49 million base pairs could be sequenced from the oldest genome, which was found in Krestovka, Siberia. That's "a relatively small fraction of the genome but more than enough to confidently place the genome on the phylogenetic tree," said study co-author Tom van der Valk, also of the Centre for Palaeogenetics.

Background: The first mammoth species were in Africa about five million years ago. During the Pleistocene epoch (which lasted from 2.6 million years ago to 11,7000 years ago and was punctuated by glacial periods), southern and steppe mammoth species emerged and in turn led to the woolly and Columbian mammoths.

The intrigue: The specimens in the new study suggest two different, isolated mammoth populations were in eastern Siberia during the Early Pleistocene, the researchers report today in the journal Nature.

  • "We can’t say for sure yet, but we think these may represent two different species," van der Valk said in a press release.
  • The authors report one population of steppe mammoths may have led to the evolution of the woolly mammoth and the other — a newly discovered lineage seen in the Krestovka sample — was an ancestor to the first mammoths in North America, known as Columbian mammoths. The researchers suggest mammoths from this lineage crossed into North America about 1.5 million years ago.
  • Roughly half of the genome of Columbian mammoths could be traced to the woolly mammoth and half to the Krestovka lineage, the result of two different species meeting and hybridizing about 420,000 years ago.
  • Other species hybridize — polar and brown bears, humans and Neanderthals — but the Columbian mammoth interestingly maintained a roughly equal split in its genome for hundreds of thousands of year, the researchers said. (For comparison, just a few percent of the genome of modern humans is Neanderthal.)

The big picture: Researchers want to understand the genetic changes that occur as animals adapt to their environments and new species arise.

  • The study found hints in the two younger DNA sequences of when woolly mammoths adapted to their cold environments. The genetic variants associated with thermoregulation, altered circadian clocks and a lot of thick hair were already present in the one-million-year-old genome from the woolly mammoth's ancestor.
  • "We don’t think there was one shot rapid burst of adaptation that led to woolly mammoth but a gradual process," says Valk.
  • Dalen said the group is "working on other mammoth genomes from closer to the extinction date to investigate exactly what happened at the very end."

What's next: The researchers said they plan to also look at other species of mammals — for example, small rodents, horses, and musk ox — that emerged more than a million years ago to understand "the origins of the species we see today," Dalen said.

Go deeper

Updated 34 mins ago - Health

WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Health measures taken to combat COVID-19 before the emergence of Omicron would also help against the new variant of concern, World Health Organization officials said Friday.

What they're saying: Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said during a virtual briefing broadcast from Manila, Philippines, that border controls imposed by the U.S. and other nations can "buy time" to deal with the variant, but warned "every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases."

2 hours ago - Health

Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nevada's Public Employees' Benefit Program Board voted Thursday to charge workers enrolled in public employee health insurance plans a surcharge of up to $55 a month if they're not vaccinated against COVID-19, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state to announce such a move, per AP.

Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Getty Images

The state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Thursday in an attempt to block the enforcement of its vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Why it matters: The move comes one day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R) request to exempt the state's National Guard from the mandate.