ACT Reading : Analyzing Sequence in Natural Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT Reading

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Purpose And Effect Of Phrases Or Sentences In Natural Science Passages

Adapted from The Effects of Cross & Self-Fertilisation in the Vegetable Kingdom by Charles Darwin (1876)

As it is impossible to exclude such minute pollen-carrying insects as Thrips, flowers which it was intended to fertilise with their own pollen may sometimes have been afterwards crossed with pollen brought by these insects from another flower on the same plant; but as we shall hereafter see, a cross of this kind does not produce any effect, or at most only a slight one. When two or more plants were placed near one another under the same net, as was often done, there is some real though not great danger of the flowers which were believed to be self-fertilised being afterwards crossed with pollen brought by Thrips from a distinct plant. I have said that the danger is not great because I have often found that plants which are self-sterile, unless aided by insects, remained sterile when several plants of the same species were placed under the same net. If, however, the flowers which had been presumably self-fertilised by me were in any case afterwards crossed by Thrips with pollen brought from a distinct plant, crossed seedlings would have been included amongst the self-fertilised; but it should be especially observed that this occurrence would tend to diminish and not to increase any superiority in average height, fertility, etc., of the crossed over the self-fertilised plants.

As the flowers which were crossed were never castrated, it is probable or even almost certain that I sometimes failed to cross-fertilise them effectually, and that they were afterwards spontaneously self-fertilised. This would have been most likely to occur with dichogamous species, for without much care it is not easy to perceive whether their stigmas are ready to be fertilised when the anthers open. But in all cases, as the flowers were protected from wind, rain, and the access of insects, any pollen placed by me on the stigmatic surface whilst it was immature, would generally have remained there until the stigma was mature; and the flowers would then have been crossed as was intended. Nevertheless, it is highly probable that self-fertilised seedlings have sometimes by this means got included amongst the crossed seedlings. The effect would be, as in the former case, not to exaggerate but to diminish any average superiority of the crossed over the self-fertilised plants.

Errors arising from the two causes just named, and from others,—such as some of the seeds not having been thoroughly ripened, though care was taken to avoid this error—the sickness or unperceived injury of any of the plants,—will have been to a large extent eliminated, in those cases in which many crossed and self-fertilised plants were measured and an average struck. Some of these causes of error will also have been eliminated by the seeds having been allowed to germinate on bare damp sand, and being planted in pairs; for it is not likely that ill-matured and well-matured, or diseased and healthy seeds, would germinate at exactly the same time. The same result will have been gained in the several cases in which only a few of the tallest, finest, and healthiest plants on each side of the pots were measured.

Kolreuter and Gartner have proved that with some plants several, even as many as from fifty to sixty, pollen-grains are necessary for the fertilisation of all the ovules in the ovarium. Naudin also found in the case of Mirabilis that if only one or two of its very large pollen-grains were placed on the stigma, the plants raised from such seeds were dwarfed. I was therefore careful to give an amply sufficient supply of pollen, and generally covered the stigma with it; but I did not take any special pains to place exactly the same amount on the stigmas of the self-fertilised and crossed flowers. After having acted in this manner during two seasons, I remembered that Gartner thought, though without any direct evidence, that an excess of pollen was perhaps injurious. It was therefore necessary to ascertain whether the fertility of the flowers was affected by applying a rather small and an extremely large quantity of pollen to the stigma. Accordingly a very small mass of pollen-grains was placed on one side of the large stigma in sixty-four flowers of Ipomoea purpurea, and a great mass of pollen over the whole surface of the stigma in sixty-four other flowers. In order to vary the experiment, half the flowers of both lots were on plants produced from self-fertilised seeds, and the other half on plants from crossed seeds. The sixty-four flowers with an excess of pollen yielded sixty-one capsules; and excluding four capsules, each of which contained only a single poor seed, the remainder contained on an average 5.07 seeds per capsule. The sixty-four flowers with only a little pollen placed on one side of the stigma yielded sixty-three capsules, and excluding one from the same cause as before, the remainder contained on an average 5.129 seeds. So that the flowers fertilised with little pollen yielded rather more capsules and seeds than did those fertilised with an excess; but the difference is too slight to be of any significance. On the other hand, the seeds produced by the flowers with an excess of pollen were a little heavier of the two; for 170 of them weighed 79.67 grains, whilst 170 seeds from the flowers with very little pollen weighed 79.20 grains. Both lots of seeds having been placed on damp sand presented no difference in their rate of germination. We may therefore conclude that my experiments were not affected by any slight difference in the amount of pollen used; a sufficiency having been employed in all cases.

In the fourth paragraph, the information about the work of Kolreuter and Gartner serves to __________.

Possible Answers:

begin a discussion on the appropriate amounts of pollen needed in the experiment 

argue that further study of the effect of pollen quantity on the rate of fertilisation is necessary

show that the author has researched the subject

support the information about errors in germination given in the previous paragraph

continue a discourse on the most effective methods to rear healthy plants

Correct answer:

begin a discussion on the appropriate amounts of pollen needed in the experiment 

Explanation:

It should be expected that the author would have researched the subject, so the purpose of the reference cannot be the demonstration of their research. The paragraph begins a discussion on the amount of pollen used and whether it has an adverse impact on seeds produced or plants produced. The work of Kolreuter and Gartner, as stated by the author, concerns the specific amount of pollen needed to fertilize all the ovules, so it allows the author to transition naturally into a new line of discussion.

Example Question #242 : Natural Science Passages

"Darwin and His Influence" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

In this passage, “selection” refers to traits that are selected for and passed on to later generations, and “species” refers to organisms that share a common ancestor and can produce viable offspring with one another.

     Early in the nineteenth century, scientists sought to understand the differences in the earth’s flora and fauna from their archeological ancestors. The prevailing view at the time was that the differences between current and previous species were unremarkable deviations from their Platonic ideal forms. This theory hinged upon the ideals of the religious-based “created kinds” theory, which state that individuals of today are products of the organisms that were present at the earth’s creation, the result of an intelligent designer. Furthermore, these individuals believed that the differences between organisms could be explained by unseen geological and astrological forces acting on organisms slowly, throughout time. Other scientists also believed that individuals had the ability to change within their lifetimes and pass on traits to their offspring efficiently and quickly through a single generation.

     Charles Darwin and other biologists, such as Alfred Wallace, were not greatly influenced by these views and hypotheses. Their propositions stated that species evolve over many generations, due to the selective pressures of their given environments. This evolution could result in the generation of divergent traits, as well as speciation and separation from the original ancestral species. The concept that organisms were not finite or present since creation was very controversial to the scientists of the period. Some saw such an idea as unsupportable, while others perceived it as heretical and fanatical.

     Darwin set out to find support for his theory through his work, On the Origins of Species by Means of Natural Selection. He was influenced by archeological discoveries of species, which appeared to have vastly different physiological appearances from present-day organisms. Darwin decided to sail around the world on a Royal Navy ship named the H.M.S. Beagle. During his travels, he was taken to the Pacific islands of the Galapagos archipelago. The volcanic islands followed a patterned distribution on either side of the Equator. The landscapes of each island varied, with different observable flora and fauna. Through scientific observations, Darwin noticed subtle variations of finches on different islands. Some finches had large hard beaks, while others had slender beaks. Beaks were differentiated from island to island. After careful study, Darwin noticed that the beaks seemed to match the food source on each island. The large beaks were specialized for breaking open hard-shelled nuts, while the slender beaks were specialized for eating certain fruits that were abundant. Darwin hypothesized that an ancestral species of finch landed on the islands, and that over generations they became adapted to the locally abundant food sources. 

     Darwin compiled multiple instances of natural selection and incorporated discoveries made by archeologists and physiologists. He surmised that species evolve over time due to the selective pressures of their respective habitats. These events occur slowly over many generations. Each species selects for advantageous traits among its members. Over time, traits selected as advantageous by environmental pressures and stressors become commonplace in the species. This niche-forming process specializes species by rewarding those with traits most suitable for reproductive success. These traits may progress into speciation of the original species, which results in the eventual development of an entirely new species. Darwin’s theory was met with opposition at the time of its publication, and the theory of evolution remains a controversial topic in several arenas of debate.

What is the main point of the first and second paragraphs?

Possible Answers:

The main point is to illustrate the the conflicting viewpoints between nineteenth-century biologists.

The main point is to illustrate the impetus for Darwin's research.

The main point is to provide evidence of species variation through evolution.

The main point is to provide evidence for the "created kinds" theory of Platonic forms.

Correct answer:

The main point is to illustrate the the conflicting viewpoints between nineteenth-century biologists.

Explanation:

The main point is to illustrate the the conflicting viewpoints between nineteenth-century biologists.

This is the correct answer. It is the only choice that presents data supported by the passsage. The first paragraph introduces evidents for the "created kinds" theory, and the second paragraph introduces Darwin's and Wallace's research. The goal of these introductory paragraphs is to provide a evidence and reasoning for two conflicting scientific viewpoints.

Example Question #243 : Natural Science Passages

"Darwin and His Influence" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

In this passage, “selection” refers to traits that are selected for and passed on to later generations, and “species” refers to organisms that share a common ancestor and can produce viable offspring with one another.

     Early in the nineteenth century, scientists sought to understand the differences in the earth’s flora and fauna from their archeological ancestors. The prevailing view at the time was that the differences between current and previous species were unremarkable deviations from their Platonic ideal forms. This theory hinged upon the ideals of the religious-based “created kinds” theory, which state that individuals of today are products of the organisms that were present at the earth’s creation, the result of an intelligent designer. Furthermore, these individuals believed that the differences between organisms could be explained by unseen geological and astrological forces acting on organisms slowly, throughout time. Other scientists also believed that individuals had the ability to change within their lifetimes and pass on traits to their offspring efficiently and quickly through a single generation.

     Charles Darwin and other biologists, such as Alfred Wallace, were not greatly influenced by these views and hypotheses. Their propositions stated that species evolve over many generations, due to the selective pressures of their given environments. This evolution could result in the generation of divergent traits, as well as speciation and separation from the original ancestral species. The concept that organisms were not finite or present since creation was very controversial to the scientists of the period. Some saw such an idea as unsupportable, while others perceived it as heretical and fanatical.

     Darwin set out to find support for his theory through his work, On the Origins of Species by Means of Natural Selection. He was influenced by archeological discoveries of species, which appeared to have vastly different physiological appearances from present-day organisms. Darwin decided to sail around the world on a Royal Navy ship named the H.M.S. Beagle. During his travels, he was taken to the Pacific islands of the Galapagos archipelago. The volcanic islands followed a patterned distribution on either side of the Equator. The landscapes of each island varied, with different observable flora and fauna. Through scientific observations, Darwin noticed subtle variations of finches on different islands. Some finches had large hard beaks, while others had slender beaks. Beaks were differentiated from island to island. After careful study, Darwin noticed that the beaks seemed to match the food source on each island. The large beaks were specialized for breaking open hard-shelled nuts, while the slender beaks were specialized for eating certain fruits that were abundant. Darwin hypothesized that an ancestral species of finch landed on the islands, and that over generations they became adapted to the locally abundant food sources. 

     Darwin compiled multiple instances of natural selection and incorporated discoveries made by archeologists and physiologists. He surmised that species evolve over time due to the selective pressures of their respective habitats. These events occur slowly over many generations. Each species selects for advantageous traits among its members. Over time, traits selected as advantageous by environmental pressures and stressors become commonplace in the species. This niche-forming process specializes species by rewarding those with traits most suitable for reproductive success. These traits may progress into speciation of the original species, which results in the eventual development of an entirely new species. Darwin’s theory was met with opposition at the time of its publication, and the theory of evolution remains a controversial topic in several arenas of debate.

The second paragraph best illustrates which of the following statements?

Possible Answers:

Darwin competed with other scientists to explain the differences between species.

Darwin collaborated with Alfred Wallace to explain evolution.

Darwin was not the only scientist that did not agree with the explanations of his time.

Darwin was the only scientist to understand and attempt to support the theory of volution by natural selection.

Correct answer:

Darwin was not the only scientist that did not agree with the explanations of his time.

Explanation:

Darwin was not the only scientist that did not agree with the explanations of his time.

This is the correct answer because the main target of this paragraph was to introduce a competing argument. The first paragraph introduced the scientific beliefs of the time; however, the second paragraph aims to present the ideas that were not widely accepted by the scientific community. There is no evidence in the passage to support the idea that Darwin collaborated with Wallace, competed with other scientists, or was the only scientist to study evolution.

Example Question #241 : Natural Science Passages

Adapted from Ice-Caves of France and Switzerland by George Forrest Browne (1865)

This account states that the cave is in the county of Thorn, among the lowest spurs of the Carpathians. The entrance, which faces the north, and is exposed to the cold winds from the snowy part of the Carpathian range, is eighteen fathoms high and nine broad; and the cave spreads out laterally, and descends to a point fifty fathoms below the entrance, where it is twenty-six fathoms in breadth, and of irregular height. Beyond this no one had at that time penetrated, on account of the unsafe footing, although many distant echoes were returned by the farther recesses of the cave; indeed, to get even so far as this, much step-cutting was necessary.

When the external frost of winter comes on, the account proceeds, the effect in the cave is the same as if fires had been lighted there: the ice melts, and swarms of flies and bats and hares take refuge in the interior from the severity of the winter. As soon as spring arrives, the warmth of winter disappears from the interior, water exudes from the roof and is converted into ice, while the more abundant supplies which pour down on to the sandy floor are speedily frozen there. In the dog-days, the frost is so intense that a small icicle becomes in one day a huge mass of ice; but a cool day promptly brings a thaw, and the cave is looked upon as a barometer, not merely feeling, but also presaging, the changes of weather. The people of the neighborhood, when employed in field-work, arrange their labour so that the mid-day meal may be taken near the cave, when they either ice the water they have brought with them, or drink the melted ice, which they consider very good for the stomach. It had been calculated that six hundred weekly carts would not be sufficient to keep the cavern free from ice. The ground above the cave is peculiarly rich in grass.

In explanation of these phenomena, Bell threw out the following suggestions, which need no comment. The earth being of itself cold and damp, the external heat of the atmosphere, by partially penetrating into the ground, drives in this native cold to the inner parts of the earth, and makes the cold there more dense. On the other hand, when the external air is cold, it draws forth towards the surface the heat there may be in the inner part of the earth, and thus makes caverns warm. In support and illustration of this view, he states that in the hotter parts of Hungary, when the people wish to cool their wine, they dig a hole two feet deep, and place in it the flagon of wine, and, after filling up the hole again, light a blazing fire upon the surface, which cools the wine as if the flagon had been laid in ice. He also suggests that possibly the cold winds from the Carpathians bring with them imperceptible particles of snow, which reach the water of the cave, and convert it into ice. Further, the rocks of the Carpathians abound in salts, niter, alum, etc., which may, perhaps, mingle with such snowy particles, and produce the ordinary effect of the snow and salt in the artificial production of ice.

Which of the following sentences best describes the function of the first paragraph within the passage as a whole?

Possible Answers:

A manifesto of what the author hopes to achieve in his study of the cave and the details he was given about it

A brief introduction, explaining the location and the existing knowledge about the cave and its shape

An argument about incorrect information which is being circulated about the cave, particularly about depth

A lengthy summation of all of the information available to the author on the cave

A description of the woeful state of the cave at the time of the author's arrival there

Correct answer:

A brief introduction, explaining the location and the existing knowledge about the cave and its shape

Explanation:

The first paragraph introduces the topic of the cave by discussing its location and general characteristics. It does not argue, give all the information about the cave, describe the poor state of the cave, or state what the author hopes to achieve.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Sequence In Natural Science Passages

Adapted from Ice-Caves of France and Switzerland by George Forrest Browne (1865)

This account states that the cave is in the county of Thorn, among the lowest spurs of the Carpathians. The entrance, which faces the north, and is exposed to the cold winds from the snowy part of the Carpathian range, is eighteen fathoms high and nine broad; and the cave spreads out laterally, and descends to a point fifty fathoms below the entrance, where it is twenty-six fathoms in breadth, and of irregular height. Beyond this no one had at that time penetrated, on account of the unsafe footing, although many distant echoes were returned by the farther recesses of the cave; indeed, to get even so far as this, much step-cutting was necessary.

When the external frost of winter comes on, the account proceeds, the effect in the cave is the same as if fires had been lighted there: the ice melts, and swarms of flies and bats and hares take refuge in the interior from the severity of the winter. As soon as spring arrives, the warmth of winter disappears from the interior, water exudes from the roof and is converted into ice, while the more abundant supplies which pour down on to the sandy floor are speedily frozen there. In the dog-days, the frost is so intense that a small icicle becomes in one day a huge mass of ice; but a cool day promptly brings a thaw, and the cave is looked upon as a barometer, not merely feeling, but also presaging, the changes of weather. The people of the neighborhood, when employed in field-work, arrange their labour so that the mid-day meal may be taken near the cave, when they either ice the water they have brought with them, or drink the melted ice, which they consider very good for the stomach. It had been calculated that six hundred weekly carts would not be sufficient to keep the cavern free from ice. The ground above the cave is peculiarly rich in grass.

In explanation of these phenomena, Bell threw out the following suggestions, which need no comment. The earth being of itself cold and damp, the external heat of the atmosphere, by partially penetrating into the ground, drives in this native cold to the inner parts of the earth, and makes the cold there more dense. On the other hand, when the external air is cold, it draws forth towards the surface the heat there may be in the inner part of the earth, and thus makes caverns warm. In support and illustration of this view, he states that in the hotter parts of Hungary, when the people wish to cool their wine, they dig a hole two feet deep, and place in it the flagon of wine, and, after filling up the hole again, light a blazing fire upon the surface, which cools the wine as if the flagon had been laid in ice. He also suggests that possibly the cold winds from the Carpathians bring with them imperceptible particles of snow, which reach the water of the cave, and convert it into ice. Further, the rocks of the Carpathians abound in salts, nitre, alum, etc., which may, perhaps, mingle with such snowy particles, and produce the ordinary effect of the snow and salt in the artificial production of ice.

The second paragraph establishes all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

the cave is warm when it is cold outside and vice versa

cutting steps into the cave was necessary

the area above the cave is verdant

icicles grow rapidly in high summer

animals shelter in the cave in winter

Correct answer:

cutting steps into the cave was necessary

Explanation:

The correct answer is established in the first, not the second, paragraph. The second paragraph states that the temperature in the cave is contrary to that outside it. It also states that animals take shelter in it in winter and that the ground above it is grassy, or “verdant.” In the latter half of the paragraph, the author states that in the “dog-days” or high summer, the icicles become huge masses of ice over a short time.

Example Question #1 : Organization And Structure In Science Passages

Adapted from "Recent Views as to Direct Action of Light on the Colors of Flowers and Fruits" in Tropical Nature, and Other Essays by Alfred Russel Wallace (1878)

The theory that the brilliant colors of flowers and fruits is due to the direct action of light has been supported by a recent writer by examples taken from the arctic instead of from the tropical flora. In the arctic regions, vegetation is excessively rapid during the short summer, and this is held to be due to the continuous action of light throughout the long summer days. “The further we advance towards the north, the more the leaves of plants increase in size as if to absorb a greater proportion of the solar rays. M. Grisebach says that during a journey in Norway he observed that the majority of deciduous trees had already, at the 60th degree of latitude, larger leaves than in Germany, while M. Ch. Martins has made a similar observation as regards the leguminous plants cultivated in Lapland.” The same writer goes on to say that all the seeds of cultivated plants acquire a deeper color the further north they are grown, white haricots becoming brown or black, and white wheat becoming brown, while the green color of all vegetation becomes more intense. The flowers also are similarly changed: those which are white or yellow in central Europe becoming red or orange in Norway. This is what occurs in the Alpine flora, and the cause is said to be the same in both—the greater intensity of the sunlight. In the one the light is more persistent, in the other more intense because it traverses a less thickness of atmosphere.

Admitting the facts as above stated to be in themselves correct, they do not by any means establish the theory founded on them; and it is curious that Grisebach, who has been quoted by this writer for the fact of the increased size of the foliage, gives a totally different explanation of the more vivid colors of Arctic flowers. He says, “We see flowers become larger and more richly colored in proportion as, by the increasing length of winter, insects become rarer, and their cooperation in the act of fecundation is exposed to more uncertain chances.” (Vegetation du Globe, col. i. p. 61—French translation.) This is the theory here adopted to explain the colors of Alpine plants, and we believe there are many facts that will show it to be the preferable one. The statement that the white and yellow flowers of temperate Europe become red or golden in the Arctic regions must we think be incorrect. By roughly tabulating the colors of the plants given by Sir Joseph Hooker as permanently Arctic, we find among fifty species with more or less conspicuous flowers, twenty-five white, twelve yellow, eight purple or blue, three lilac, and two red or pink; showing a very similar proportion of white and yellow flowers to what obtains further south.

Data gathered from a survey of the colors of different types of Arctic flowers is presented __________.

Possible Answers:

at the end of the second paragraph

at the end of the first paragraph

at the beginning of the first paragraph

nowhere in the passage

at the beginning of the second paragraph

Correct answer:

at the end of the second paragraph

Explanation:

This evidence is introduced at the end of the second paragraph, where the author says, "The statement that the white and yellow flowers of temperate Europe become red or golden in the Arctic regions must we think be incorrect. By roughly tabulating the colors of the plants given by Sir Joseph Hooker as permanently Arctic, we find among fifty species with more or less conspicuous flowers, twenty-five white, twelve yellow, eight purple or blue, three lilac, and two red or pink; showing a very similar proportion of white and yellow flowers to what obtains further south."

Example Question #1 : Recognizing The Main Idea In Narrative Science Passages

Adapted from “Feathers of Sea Birds and Wild Fowl for Bedding” from The Utility of Birds by Edward Forbush (ed. 1922)

In the colder countries of the world, the feathers and down of waterfowl have been in great demand for centuries as filling for beds and pillows. Such feathers are perfect non-conductors of heat, and beds, pillows, or coverlets filled with them represent the acme of comfort and durability. The early settlers of New England saved for such purposes the feathers and down from the thousands of wild-fowl which they killed, but as the population increased in numbers, the quantity thus furnished was insufficient, and the people sought a larger supply in the vast colonies of ducks and geese along the Labrador coast. 

The manner in which the feathers and down were obtained, unlike the method practiced in Iceland, did not tend to conserve and protect the source of supply. In Iceland, the people have continued to receive for many years a considerable income by collecting eider down, but there they do not “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.” Ducks line their nests with down plucked from their own breasts and that of the eider is particularly valuable for bedding. In Iceland, these birds are so carefully protected that they have become as tame and unsuspicious as domestic fowls In North America. Where they are constantly hunted they often conceal their nests in the midst of weeds or bushes, but in Iceland, they make their nests and deposit their eggs in holes dug for them in the sod. A supply of the ducks is maintained so that the people derive from them an annual income.

In North America, quite a different policy was pursued. The demand for feathers became so great in the New England colonies about the middle of the eighteenth century that vessels were fitted out there for the coast of Labrador for the express purpose of securing the feathers and down of wild fowl. Eider down having become valuable and these ducks being in the habit of congregating by thousands on barren islands of the Labrador coast, the birds became the victims of the ships’ crews. As the ducks molt all their primary feathers at once in July or August and are then quite incapable of flight and the young birds are unable to fly until well grown, the hunters were able to surround the helpless birds, drive them together, and kill them with clubs. Otis says that millions of wildfowl were thus destroyed and that in a few years their haunts were so broken up by this wholesale slaughter and their numbers were so diminished that feather voyages became unprofitable and were given up. 

This practice, followed by the almost continual egging, clubbing, shooting, etc. by Labrador fishermen, may have been a chief factor in the extinction of the Labrador duck, that species of supposed restricted breeding range. No doubt had the eider duck been restricted in its breeding range to the islands of Labrador, it also would have been exterminated long ago.

In the context of the passage as a whole, the fourth paragraph serves to __________.

Possible Answers:

describe why eider down is a valuable commodity

provide more historical details about how the Labrador feather voyages were organized

describe some of the benefits of the Labrador feather voyages

detail further repercussions of the Labrador feather voyages

compare and contrast Icelandic and North American down-harvesting methods

Correct answer:

detail further repercussions of the Labrador feather voyages

Explanation:

Let’s look at what each paragraph is accomplishing in the context of the passage as a whole:

First paragraph: introduces and describes eider down

Second paragraph: describes Icelandic method of collecting eider down, which protects the duck population

Third paragraph: describes the North American method of collecting eider down, which destroys the duck population

Fourth paragraph: suggests that the Labrador feather voyages may have contributed to the extinction of the Labrador duck and says that they stopped because the duck populations were so much smaller that the trips were no longer profitable

Now that we have considered the structure of the passage’s argument as a whole, it should be easier to answer this question. “Compare and contrast Icelandic and North American down-harvesting methods” describes the second and third paragraphs, whereas “describe why eider down is a valuable commodity” describes the first paragraph. The Labrador feather voyages are cast in a negative light throughout the entire passage, so “describe some of the benefits of the Labrador feather voyages” cannot be the correct answer as benefits of them are never discussed. The fourth paragraph does not “provide more historical details about how the Labrador feather voyages were organized”; it describes their aftermath, so this answer choice cannot be correct. That the fourth paragraph serves to “detail further repercussions of the Labrador feather voyages” is the best answer choice. It discusses the effects of the Labrador feather voyages on the duck population and suggests that they may have contributed to the extinction of a particular species of duck that had a limited habitat.

Example Question #251 : Natural Science Passages

"The Cell Cycle" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

The process by which cells divide and multiply is known as the cell cycle. This cycle consists of two main phases: interphase and mitosis. Each phase consists of a series of clearly defined and observable steps. At the conclusion of the cycle, each parent cell produces two genetically identical daughter cells that may also replicate by proceeding through the cell cycle.

Roughly ninety percent of the cell cycle is spent in interphase. Interphase is comprised of three main steps: the first gap phase, the synthesis phase (also called "S phase"), and the second gap phase. The initial gap phase is a period of cellular preparation in which the cell increases in size and readies itself for DNA synthesis. In the synthesis phase, or S phase, DNA replication occurs, so that when the cell divides, each daughter cell will have the DNA necessary to function properly. In the second gap phase, the cell grows in size and prepares for cellular division in the mitotic phase. At the end of each gap phase, the cell has to pass a regulatory checkpoint to ensure that nothing is going wrong. If anything has gone wrong, the checkpoints stop the cell from proceeding through the cell cycle any further.

The next part of the cell cycle is mitosis. Mitosis is a form of cell division and is broken down into five distinct phases. During prophase, the genetic material contained in the cell’s chromatin condenses into distinct chromosomes. Prometaphase is marked by the breakdown of the cell’s nuclear envelope and the formation of centrosomes at the poles of the cell. During metaphase, the cell’s chromosomes are moved to the center of the cell. A checkpoint ensures that the chromosomes are properly aligned on the center and halts the cell cycle if any errors have occurred. In anaphase, chromosomes break apart at their center, or centromere, and sister chromatids move to opposite ends of the cell. Lastly, telophase and cytokinesis occur as nuclear membranes form to physically divide the cell into two new daughter cells. Chromosomes also unwind into loose chromatin during this part of mitosis. Cytokinesis is defined as the division of the each cell’s cytoplasm and organelles. At the conclusion of the cell cycle, two genetically identical daughter cells have formed.

The cell cycle operates by a series of checkpoints and external cues. This system of checks enables the cell to enter a state of dormancy known as the gap zero phase when conditions or other factors inhibit the cell cycle. Conversely, unregulated and uncontrolled cellular division can occur under certain circumstances. A cell in a state of uncontrolled division is known to be cancerous. Lastly, cells have the ability to mediate their own death by way of apoptosis if certain genetic or physical abnormalities exist. The cell cycle is a complex process that enables cells to replicate and proliferate under a stringent set of checks and balances that produce healthy and viable daughter cells that are each able to perform the process in the future.

Which of the following lists the steps of mitosis in the order in which they occur?

Possible Answers:

Prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase, prophase, telophase and cytokinesis

Synthesis phase, first gap phase, second gap phase

First gap phase, synthesis phase, second gap phase

Prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase, telophase and cytokinesis

Correct answer:

Prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase, telophase and cytokinesis

Explanation:

The third paragraph discusses mitosis, and talks about prophase, then prometaphase, then metaphase, then anaphase, then telophase and cytokinesis, so this is the correct order. The answer choices that discuss the first gap phase, synthesis phase, and the second gap phase are referring to the stages of interphase, not mitosis, so it's important to make this distinction while reading!

Example Question #3 : Analyzing Sequence, Organization, And Structure In Natural Science Passages

"The Cell Cycle" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

The process by which cells divide and multiply is known as the cell cycle. This cycle consists of two main phases: interphase and mitosis. Each phase consists of a series of clearly defined and observable steps. At the conclusion of the cycle, each parent cell produces two genetically identical daughter cells that may also replicate by proceeding through the cell cycle.

Roughly ninety percent of the cell cycle is spent in interphase. Interphase is comprised of three main steps: the first gap phase, the synthesis phase (also called "S phase"), and the second gap phase. The initial gap phase is a period of cellular preparation in which the cell increases in size and readies itself for DNA synthesis. In the synthesis phase, or S phase, DNA replication occurs, so that when the cell divides, each daughter cell will have the DNA necessary to function properly. In the second gap phase, the cell grows in size and prepares for cellular division in the mitotic phase. At the end of each gap phase, the cell has to pass a regulatory checkpoint to ensure that nothing is going wrong. If anything has gone wrong, the checkpoints stop the cell from proceeding through the cell cycle any further.

The next part of the cell cycle is mitosis. Mitosis is a form of cell division and is broken down into five distinct phases. During prophase, the genetic material contained in the cell’s chromatin condenses into distinct chromosomes. Prometaphase is marked by the breakdown of the cell’s nuclear envelope and the formation of centrosomes at the poles of the cell. During metaphase, the cell’s chromosomes are moved to the center of the cell. A checkpoint ensures that the chromosomes are properly aligned on the center and halts the cell cycle if any errors have occurred. In anaphase, chromosomes break apart at their center, or centromere, and sister chromatids move to opposite ends of the cell. Lastly, telophase and cytokinesis occur as nuclear membranes form to physically divide the cell into two new daughter cells. Chromosomes also unwind into loose chromatin during this part of mitosis. Cytokinesis is defined as the division of the each cell’s cytoplasm and organelles. At the conclusion of the cell cycle, two genetically identical daughter cells have formed.

The cell cycle operates by a series of checkpoints and external cues. This system of checks enables the cell to enter a state of dormancy known as the gap zero phase when conditions or other factors inhibit the cell cycle. Conversely, unregulated and uncontrolled cellular division can occur under certain circumstances. A cell in a state of uncontrolled division is known to be cancerous. Lastly, cells have the ability to mediate their own death by way of apoptosis if certain genetic or physical abnormalities exist. The cell cycle is a complex process that enables cells to replicate and proliferate under a stringent set of checks and balances that produce healthy and viable daughter cells that are each able to perform the process in the future.

Where does DNA synthesis and replication occur in the cell cycle?

Possible Answers:

S phase

Telophase

Metaphase

Prophase

Correct answer:

S phase

Explanation:

The S phase, or synthesis phase, of interphase is where DNA replication and synthesis take place. This occurs before mitotic division of the nucleus. The other answers are incorrect because they take place during mitosis. The DNA needs to be replicaed before mitosis occurs, or each daughter cell will not receive enough DNA to function properly.

Example Question #112 : Reading Comprehension

Adapted from Volume Four of The Natural History of Animals: The Animal Life of the World in Its Various Aspects and Relations by James Richard Ainsworth Davis (1903)

The examples of protective resemblance so far quoted are mostly permanent adaptations to one particular sort of surrounding. There are, however, numerous animals which possess the power of adjusting their color more or less rapidly so as to harmonize with a changing environment.

Some of the best known of these cases are found among those mammals and birds that inhabit countries more or less covered with snow during a part of the year. A good instance is afforded by the Irish or variable hare, which is chiefly found in Ireland and Scotland. In summer, this looks very much like an ordinary hare, though rather grayer in tint and smaller in size, but in winter it becomes white with the exception of the black tips to the ears. Investigations that have been made on the closely allied American hare seem to show that the phenomenon is due to the growth of new hairs of white hue. 

The common stoat is subject to similar color change in the northern parts of its range. In summer it is of a bright reddish brown color with the exception of the under parts, which are yellowish white, and the end of the tail, which is black. But in winter, the entire coat, save only the tip of the tail, becomes white, and in that condition the animal is known as an ermine. A similar example is afforded by the weasel. The seasonal change in the vegetarian Irish hare is purely of protective character, but in such an actively carnivorous creature as a stoat or weasel, it is aggressive as well, rendering the animal inconspicuous to its prey.

The purpose of the passage’s third paragraph is __________.

Possible Answers:

to provide an example color-change in animals that is both aggressive and defensive

to describe why stoats and weasels have a hard time hunting Irish hares in winter

to describe the appearance of a stoat in summer

to describe an animal that has adapted to an unchanging environment

to provide an example of an animal that goes by two different names depending on its appearance

Correct answer:

to provide an example color-change in animals that is both aggressive and defensive

Explanation:

When answering questions about a paragraph’s purpose, it’s helpful to consider how it relates to the rest of the passage as a whole, and to consider what each of the other paragraphs do in the context of the passage. For instance, in this passage, the first paragraph transitions from discussing animal adaptations in unchanging environments to discussing animal adaptations in changing environments. The second paragraph talks about Irish hares as an example of animals that change their fur color. So, what is the point of the third paragraph? While it does “provide an example of an animal that goes by two different names depending on its appearance” and “describe the appearance of a stoat in summer,” neither of these is its main point; these are details, and neither seems to relate that much to the points of the previous paragraphs. Stoats and weasels are not described as specifically hunting Irish hares, and the passage describes how their changing fur color helps them be better hunters, not why they have such a hard time hunting, so “to describe why stoats and weasels have a hard time hunting Irish hares in winter” cannot be the correct answer either. The point of the paragraph cannot be “to describe an animal that has adapted to an unchanging environment” either, because it describes stoats and weasels, animals that adapt to changing environments. This leaves us with one answer, the correct one: “to provide an example color-change in animals that is both aggressive and defensive.” The examples of stoats and weasels both fall into this category, which is contrasted with the purely defensive function of color-change in hares in the passage’s last sentence.

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