Genetic modification of maize over the last century has led to desirable shoot characteristics and increased yield - and that likely contributed to the evolution of root systems that are more efficient in acquiring nutrients, such as nitrogen, from the soil, according to a new study. 

About half of the yield gains in commercial corn in the last 100 years has come from improved plant genetics, explained Larry York, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Nottingham. The other half came largely from agronomic practices, such as fertilizer use and higher planting densities. 
For being a fellow of above average height (<6'2" now - age will do that) traveling to Holland can be a strange experience. It seems like everyone is around my height. The men are tall, the women are tall. 

Netherlands has the tallest people in the world. Yet they used to be the shortest.  While everyone got taller during that time, Dutch average height went up 8 inches in two centuries.

Life has adapted to all sorts of extreme environments on Earth, among them, animals like the deer mouse, shimmying and shivering about, and having to squeeze enough energy from the cold, thin air to fuel their bodies and survive.

In a new paper, Scott, Cheviron et al., have examined the underlying muscle physiology from a group of highland and lowland deer mice. Peromyscus maniculatus - deer mice - were chosen because they exhibit the most extreme altitude range of any North American mammal, occurring below sea levels in Death Valley to more than 4,300 meters high in the mountains. 

An evolutionary puzzle has baffled palaeontologists for more than 180 years - the origins of Toxodon platensis and Macrauchenia patachonica, South American ungulates (hooved animals) described by Charles Darwin as the ‘strangest animals ever discovered’.

Previous attempts by scientists to pinpoint the origin of the animals using morphology-based and DNA analysis of fossils had failed but a new study presents evidence that the animals were related to mammals like horses, rather than elephants and other African species as some taxonomists have maintained.

Science 2.0, a new methodology for collaboration, communication, publication and participation, has tackled the evolution of an important protein and discovered its connection in human history, as well as clues about its role in complex neurological diseases. 

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.