Marsha Lewis, Inside Science TV – There are about 60,000 different vertebrates on this planet.

Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, even you are a vertebrate. And now for the first time, scientists from around the world are coming together to study them on a molecular level.

"The Genome 10k Project is our first look at vertebrate animal life," said David Haussler, a biomolecular engineer at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "We're trying to get at least 10,000 species represented in our genome collection," he said.

Everyone loves vampire squid, right? Their monstrous name belies their gentle nature as graceful underwater flyers who eat poop.

The ability to move in water is key to existence for many species so it may not be a surprise that so many species have converged on swimming. What is intriguing is how diverse creatures have evolved to swim with elongated fins using the same mechanical motion that optimizes their speed.

The Persian carpet flatworm, the cuttlefish and the black ghost knifefish are nothing like each other - their last common ancestor lived 550 million years ago, before the Cambrian period - but all three aquatic creatures converged evolutionaru on the same swimming, according to a new study uses a combination of computer simulations, a robotic fish and video footage of real fish. 

Researchers have determined that the eardrum evolved independently in mammals and diapsids - the taxonomic group that includes reptiles and birds. Published in Nature Communications, the work shows that the mammalian eardrum depends on lower jaw formation, while that of diapsids develops from the upper jaw. Significantly, the researchers used techniques borrowed from developmental biology to answer a question that has intrigued paleontologists for years.

The famous Vitruvian Man, drawn by Leonardo da Vinci, pictures the canon of human's proportions - though we did not become bilaterally symmetric all at once.

There are two main points of view on the last common bilaterian ancestor, its appearance and the course of evolution. It is likely that the ancestor of Bilateria appeared at the end of the Vendian period which is the last geological period of the Neoproterozoic Era preceding the Cambrian Period. It lasted from approximately 635 to 541±1 million years ago. The organisms, which lived in the Vendian sea, were mostly radially symmetrical creatures. Some of them were floating in the water, while others were crawling along the bottom or leading sessile benthic life.

Invasive plants animals and plants spreading is not new but predicting the dynamics of these invasions is difficult - and of great ecological and socioeconomical interest. Scientists at Eawag and University of Zurich are now using computer simulations and small artificial laboratory worlds, to study how rapid evolution makes invaders spread even faster. 

Charles Darwin, for all his brilliance, was perhaps paralyzed by insecurity. There are not many other explanations for why he delayed publishing his seminal work, "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life", until 1859.
Evolution has endowed females of certain species of amphibians, reptiles and fish with the ability to clone themselves and perpetuate offspring without males.

It has even happened more recently but these virgin births don't mean males are unneeded. Fertilization is still ensuring the survival of the maximum number of healthy offspring.

A species can increase its numbers faster in harsh environments when its females do not have to find worthy males and scientists have speculated that this ability arose independently in certain species, either due to conflict between the sexes or to ensure survival when mates were scarce. Many of these species now consist entirely of females.
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.