Zeray Alemseged / University of Chicago

A 3.3 million-year-old fossil of a two-and-a-half-year-old toddler found in Dikika, Ethiopia, reveals that the general structure of the modern human skeleton was already emerging millions of years ago, much earlier than previously thought, according to a new study published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The findings, by Carol Ward from the University of Missouri:

  • The fossil, which scientists have named Selam, was discovered in 2000 and belongs to the early human species Australopithecus afarensis.
  • Selam possessed "the most complete spinal column of any early fossil human relative" with 12 rib-bearing vertebrae, the same number humans have now and one fewer than most apes.
  • The study said Salem represents the only known fossil with 12 rib-bearing vertebrae in early humans prior to 60,000 years ago.
  • Researchers also found that Selam's joint transition from the rib cage to the lower back region followed the same distinctive pattern only seen in our early ancestors.

Go deeper

8 hours ago - World

China-Iran deal envisions massive investments from Beijing

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

China and Iran have negotiated a deal that would see massive investments flow into Iran, oil flow out, and collaboration increase on defense and intelligence.

Why it matters: If the proposals become reality, Chinese cash, telecom infrastructure, railways and ports could offer new life to Iran’s sanctions-choked economy — or, critics fear, leave it inescapably beholden to Beijing.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 13,048,249 — Total deaths: 571,685 — Total recoveries — 7,215,865Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 3,353,348— Total deaths: 135,524 — Total recoveries: 1,031,856 — Total tested: 40,282,176Map.
  3. World: WHO head: There will be no return to the "old normal" for foreseeable future — Hong Kong Disneyland closing due to surge.
  4. States: Houston mayor calls for two-week shutdownCalifornia orders sweeping rollback of open businesses — Cuomo says New York will use formula to determine if reopening schools is safe.
  5. Education: Los Angeles schools' move to online learning could be a nationwide tipping point.

House Judiciary Committee releases transcript of Geoffrey Berman testimony

Geoffrey Berman. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday released the transcript of its closed-door interview with Geoffrey Berman, the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan who was forced out by Attorney General Bill Barr last month.

Why it matters: House Democrats have seized on Berman's testimony, in which he claimed the attorney general sought to "entice" him into resigning so that he could be replaced by SEC chairman Jay Clayton, to bolster allegations that the Justice Department has been politicized under Barr.