Evolution

Most animals have a dorso-ventral (back-to-belly) body axis which determines the position of the central nervous system - dorsal in humans, ventral in insects.

Though there are obviously morphological differences, the same signaling molecules of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) molecules establishes the dorso-ventral axis including the central nervous system in both insects and vertebrates, which led to the conclusion that this molecular mechanism was already present in the common ancestor. 

Tracing the origin of the dorso-ventral axis has not been easy but sea anemones have provided some answers.


Humans, worms and flies are all completely different organisms and yet we have a more or less common set of genes.

Given that similar DNA blueprint, how do species develop such vast differences in physical shape, size, and complexity?

One so-called "central dogma" of molecular biology says that genetic information passes faithfully from genomic DNA to messenger RNA to the synthesis of proteins but a new study finds that such information can be significantly altered along the way by a variety of means, including by precision "editing" at the RNA stage to fine-tune the type of proteins that will be produced. 
How does a mother transition genetic control to offspring early in development?

It's part of a larger mystery regarding how embryos regulate cell division and differentiation into new types of cells.

A new article in Cell provides some insight into the mechanism for this genetic hand-off, which happens within hours of fertilization, when the newly fertilized egg is a zygote.
Whither The Celts?

In the 1980s there was a terrific British documentary called simply "The Celts", made because of ongoing fascination by entitled western elites with indigenous people and perhaps the lingering hope/fear that maybe they were somehow better than the winners.

The Celts were a blanket name for a lot of people who were just The Other to Romans, any number of tribes that the Romans ascribed names to based on region.  They were basically a kind of "dark matter" for ancient authors, who didn't know what they were or how to figure them out, but knew they have to have existed because Caesar fought someone in France and Germany and he took really good notes.
DNA - inheritance - is more important than the color of your eyes or your hair, it can also influence whether you might develop certain diseases, like cystic fibrosis or hemophilia. Evolution - survival of the fittest - may seem like the great biological equalizer but mankind has clearly conquered it, since all kinds of people who might have died in the past due to foodborne diseases or tainted water or diseases no longer do.
We have tens or hundreds of active 'foreign' genes, according to a new paper, and that may merit a rethink of how we discuss evolution, say the authors.
The origin of life remains a mystery with more questions than answers. How were molecules created? How did they assemble into large structures? 

Among the conundrums, the "homochirality" phenomenon upon which amino acids and sugars form is particularly fascinating.  

The single-handedness of biological molecules has fascinated scientists since Pasteur first separated the enantiomorphic crystals of a tartrate salt more than 150 years ago because the homochirality of biological molecules is a signature of life.
Most female animals die around the same time they stop reproducing, only humans and two types of whale continue to live for many years after giving birth to their last baby. 

But why?  Menopause is one of nature's greatest mysteries.  

A new study says that female killer whales survive after menopause because they help their family members find food during hard times, though that could be more like keeping busy and staying relevant than being an evolutionary mandate.
High up in the high Andes mountains of Argentina, a population has adapted to tolerate the toxic chemical arsenic. 

For thousands of years, in some regions of the Andes, people have been exposed to high levels of it, because arsenic in volcanic bedrock is released into the groundwater.

How could this population adapt to tolerate arsenic, a potent killer of such ill repute that it's often the overused plot-driver of many murder mysteries? 
A partial human skull found in northern Israel  excited paleontologists because it seemed to hold clues about when and where humans and Neanderthals might have interbred.

The Manot Cave is a natural limestone formation that had been sealed for 15,000 years. It was discovered by a bulldozer clearing the land for development and the partial skull, sitting on a ledge, was found by spelunkers exploring the newly-opened cave. Five excavation seasons uncovered a rich deposit, with stone tools and stratified occupation levels covering a period of time from 55,000 to 27,000 years ago.