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Americas will get best view of Tuesday’s lunar eclipse

North and South America, get ready for the first eclipse of the year. Tuesday morning, the moon will be eclipsed by Earth’s shadow. This total lunar eclipse will be visible across the Western Hemisphere. The total phase will last 78 minutes, beginning at 3:06 a.m. EDT and ending at 4:24 a.m. EDT.

The moon will be rising in the western Pacific, and so only the last half of the eclipse will be visible there. In much of Europe and Africa, the moon will be setting, so there won’t be much, if anything, to see.

Two weeks later, on April 29, the Southern Hemisphere will be treated to a rare type of solar eclipse.

– Associated Press

Extra rib a harbinger of mammoth’s demise

Many woolly mammoths from the North Sea had a superfluous rib attached to their seventh vertebra, a sign that they suffered from inbreeding and harsh conditions during pregnancy, researchers report. This may have contributed to their extinction, say the scientists who looked at fossil samples that date to the late Pleistocene age, which ended about 12,000 years ago.

At the time, mammoths were battling disease, famine and cold, which led to smaller populations. This led to inbreeding and unfit mammoths, said Frietson Galis, an evolutionary developmental biologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands. “It’s what you call an extinction vortex that becomes difficult to stop,” she said.

Writing in the journal PeerJ, Galis and her colleagues report that the peculiar rib occurred in woolly mammoths 10 times as frequently as it does in modern elephants. In humans and other mammals, cervical ribs are associated with stillbirths and congenital abnormalities.

Woolly mammoths died out 12,000 to 10,000 years ago, when flowery plant covers disappeared from the tundra. Human hunting may also have contributed to their demise.

– New York Times