AP Biology : Understanding Fossil Evidence

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Biology

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Understanding Fossil Evidence

Which of these is an idea that Lamarck believed, but was disproven by Darwin?

Possible Answers:

Closely-related individuals will share similar genetic material

Natural selection was the driving force of evolution

Genetic drift has no impact on populations traits

Offspring could inherit acquired traits from parents 

Correct answer:

Offspring could inherit acquired traits from parents 

Explanation:

Lamarck incorrectly believed that parents could pass on traits that they had acquired to their offspring. He believed that the changes made during a lifetime, such as increased muscle mass, would be passed on to offspring. This is not true since acquired traits, except on very few rare occasions, do not affect the DNA. For example, if two parents have small muscles, but then take steroids and become bodybuilders, their offspring will still inherit the small muscle genes, since only the muscles, not the DNA is affected by bodybuilding.

Example Question #2 : Understanding Fossil Evidence

Which of these is believed to be the first type of multicellular animals?

Possible Answers:

Mammals

Arthropods

Algae 

Sponges

Correct answer:

Sponges

Explanation:

It is believed that sponges were the first animals to utilize multicellularity. Sponges only have a few cell types, including: choanocytes, porocytes, and pinacocytes. Choanocytes have flagella that beat continuously to move water, and microvilli, which are specialized for absorbing nutrients. Porocytes are tubular cells that form the pores of sponges. Pinacocytes produce collagen and provide structural support to the sponge. Although algae likely developed multicellularity early on, they are not animals. Arthropods and mammals are both multicellular and animals, but evolved after sponges.

Example Question #3 : Understanding Fossil Evidence

What is an example of information that biologists can gather from studying coprolites?

Possible Answers:

Each of these are examples of information biologists can gather from studying coprolites.

They can be studied to determine what sorts of plants or animals lived in the same time period.

None of these; as coprolites are not a part of the actual animal, they hold very little research value.

They can be studied to determine what an extinct animal's diet consisted of.

They can be studied to determine an extinct animal's size.

Correct answer:

Each of these are examples of information biologists can gather from studying coprolites.

Explanation:

Coprolites are fossilized fecal matter from an animal. By studying their contents, biologists can gather information on what the animal ate, and what species were there to be eaten by the animal.

Example Question #4 : Understanding Fossil Evidence

Scientists and paleontologists use what method in order to determine the age of an organic object?

Possible Answers:

retroactive dating

index dating

carbon dating

Cliff face dating

relative dating

Correct answer:

carbon dating

Explanation:

The key to answering this question is organic material. Once an organism dies, it ceases to participate in carbon exchanges with the atmosphere. What carbon is left in the organism then decreases at a stable rate which allows scientists to reliable date the era that the organism died in.

Example Question #5 : Understanding Fossil Evidence

Fill in the blanks with the correct answers.

The sun emits thermal neutrons that can cause __________ to deprotonate into the radioactive isotope __________.

Possible Answers:

carbon-14 . . . carbon-13

nitrogen-14 . . . carbon-14

uranium-237 . . . lead-207

uranium-237 . . . uranium-236

hydrogen-1 . . . hydride

Correct answer:

nitrogen-14 . . . carbon-14

Explanation:

When a thermal neutron collides with a nitrogen atom in the atmosphere, it causes a proton to fly off from the atom, reducing the atom from nitrogen to carbon while keeping the same number of neutrons, 14. Because the amount of matter in the universe is believed to be constant, we can measure the amount of carbon-14 left in a dead specimen to determine its age within approximately 50,000 years.

Example Question #6 : Understanding Fossil Evidence

A research team has discovered remains of a dinosaur skeleton in the field. They want to use a radiometric method to date the fossilized skeleton. Would carbon-14 dating be a useful tool in this situation?

Possible Answers:

Yes. Since the fossil is encased in rock, the carbon-14 method can be used on the rocks to determine when the fossil was buried.

Yes. Since the fossils come from an organic source, the research team can measure the remaining carbon-14 to date the fossil.

No. Carbon-14 dating has been shown to be unreliable since the rate of decay is not constant in the environment.

No. Dinosaur fossils contain only the carbon-13 form of the element, not carbon-14.

No. The half-life of carbon-14 is too short to accurately date an artifact that is older than around 50,000 years, while dinosaurs lived approximately 65 million years ago.

Correct answer:

No. The half-life of carbon-14 is too short to accurately date an artifact that is older than around 50,000 years, while dinosaurs lived approximately 65 million years ago.

Explanation:

Carbon-14 dating is used to date organic material within an approximately 50,000 year time period, due to the relatively short half life of the carbon-14 isotope. Other isotopes are used to date the rocks surrounding dinosaur fossils, such as in the uranium-lead method or the potassium-argon method.

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