AP Environmental Science : Natural Selection

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Environmental Science

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Natural Selection

Preserving genes that help organisms flourish in their environment is the definition of which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Genetic equilibrium

Variability

Adaptations

Assortive mating

Natural selection

Correct answer:

Natural selection

Explanation:

Natural selection is the process by which the organisms with the highest fitness survive and reproduce. Not all organisms reproduce at the same rate; some are better suited for the environment in which they live than others. This suitability is often described using the concept of Darwinian fitness, which is the ability of an organism to survive and reproduce, therefore passing on its genes to its progeny.

As an example of natural selection in action, consider the case of the Peppered Moth in England around the time of the Industrial Revolution. Before the Industrial Revolution, Peppered Moth populations were primarily composed of white-colored moths, with dark-colored moths representing only a small fraction of the population. This is because the trees the moths often rested on were white in color, allowing white-colored moths effective camoflauge but making the dark-colored moths obvious to predators. So, the dark-colored moths got eaten more often and did not survive to reproduce and pass on their genes to progeny; the white-colored moths did. During the Industrial Revolution, the smog and air pollution produced turned the bark of certain trees to a darker color. Now, the dark-colored moths were effectively camoflaged, but the white-colored moths stuck out to predators. More dark-colored moths survived (e.g. weren't eaten) than white-colored moths because of this environmental change, and so the moth population over time came to be composed of primarily dark-colored moths, with a small fraction of white-colored moths. This anecdote demonstrates the process of natural selection and how fitness can be influenced by environmental changes.

Example Question #2 : Natural Selection

"Survival of the fittest" is often used to describe Darwin's theory of natural selection; however, which of the following choices better describes the theory of adaptation by natural selection?

Possible Answers:

"Survival of the most adaptable"

"Survival of the biggest"

"Survival of the most impressive"

None of these

Correct answer:

"Survival of the most adaptable"

Explanation:

Individuals that are "fit" in regard to natural selection does not refer to strength or one particular trait. Rather, it refers to an organism’s adaptability to their environment, which allows them to survive and reproduce. Successful reproductive events pass on genes, traits, and adaptations to future generations of the species.

Example Question #3 : Natural Selection

Which of the following is an example of an initial step associated with natural selection?

Possible Answers:

A Chihuahua breeder singles out the smallest individuals from each litter of puppies and breeds them together to produce smaller puppies.

None of these

All of these

Ash from the industrial revolution darkens the tree trunks in a moth species' habitat, the dark moths are favored and light moth populations are reduced.

An ancient, short-necked giraffe stretches its neck to reach higher leaves and its offspring inherit a long neck.

Correct answer:

Ash from the industrial revolution darkens the tree trunks in a moth species' habitat, the dark moths are favored and light moth populations are reduced.

Explanation:

One of the initial steps towards natural selection is environmental change that selects for or against a particular trait in a species (e.g. ash darkening habitats selects for darker colored moths). Over time, as the ash continues to color the moths' habitat, the light moths—being more visible to predators—will die out. As a result their reproductive success will be reduced and the darker moths will be more likely to reproduce and pass on their traits. 

Example Question #4 : Natural Selection

A new predator, the red-tailed hawk has been introduced to a meadow ecosystem with several rodent species with varying behaviors and characteristics. Hawks hunt by day, swooping down into areas without dense foliage and grabbing their prey by surprise. Which species are most likely to decline by introducing this top predator? 

Possible Answers:

Shrews that forage for seeds and insects in wooded areas under leaf litter. 

Voles that forage for seeds during the daytime in fields and meadows. 

Gophers that burrow underground and forage for roots and insects. 

Field mice that are nocturnal and forage for seeds in open meadows.

Brown Rats that much prefer foraging in dumpsters and other human sources of food than foraging in the wild. 

Correct answer:

Voles that forage for seeds during the daytime in fields and meadows. 

Explanation:

Since voles not only forage in open grassland and meadows where hawks hunt their prey, they also forage during daylight hours, when hawks are most active. Therefore, the vole population is most likely of all the rodent species to see a significant decline. 

Example Question #5 : Natural Selection

Evolution occurs through a process called natural selection. 

What are the four premises or observations of natural selection? 

Possible Answers:

High reproductive rate, adaptation, rapid population growth, and differential reproductive success

High reproductive rate, inherited variation, rapid population growth, and modern sythesis

High reproductive rate, inherited variation, rapid population growth, and differential reproductive success

High reproductive rate, inherited variation, mutation, and differential reproductive success

Populations, inherited variation, rapid population growth, and differential reproductive success

Correct answer:

High reproductive rate, inherited variation, rapid population growth, and differential reproductive success

Explanation:

Adaptation, modern synthesis, and mutation are all part of evolution through natural process. Adaptation is the process of inheritable traits being carried from one generation to the next. Modern synthesis is the combining of Darwin's theory of evolution with modern principles of genetics. Mutations are changes in genes and are part of the modern synthesis. 

Example Question #6 : Natural Selection

What two factors determine biological fitness?

Possible Answers:

Genetic diversity and population size

Survival and reproductive rate

Survival and size

Genetic diversity and age of first reproduction

Allele frequency and genetic diversity 

Correct answer:

Survival and reproductive rate

Explanation:

The correct response is survival and reproductive rate. These are the two factors that are used to determine the fitness of an individual. There are other variables that can impact survival and reproduction rate, but these are the two foundational factors that impact fitness.

Fitness = Rate of Survival times Rate of Reproduction

Thus, if an individual lives to be 100 years old but has 0 children, then their overall fitness is 0. (Fitness = 100 x 0 = 0)

Example Question #7 : Natural Selection

What is the set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment?

Possible Answers:

Phenotype

Haploid

Genotype

Nomenclature

Correct answer:

Phenotype

Explanation:

The phenotype is described as the observable characteristics of an organism. Natural selection is based on survival of the fittest due to differences in phenotype. This is not to be confused with genotype, which is the genetic (DNA sequence) of a trait.

Example Question #8 : Natural Selection

__________ is responsible for the idea of natural selection. 

Possible Answers:

Empedocles

Ronald Fisher

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck

Charles Darwin

Correct answer:

Charles Darwin

Explanation:

The modern theory that is natural selection is from the studies of Charles Darwin. His theory of natural selection was an explanation for the adaptation of species. He further explored his ideas in his book, The Origin of Species. 

Example Question #9 : Natural Selection

An organism's fitness, as it applies in natural selection, involves __________.

Possible Answers:

the number of mates with whom they reproduce

the number of their offspring that reproduce themselves

the efficiency with which they hunt

their ability to chase prey for extended periods of time

Correct answer:

the number of their offspring that reproduce themselves

Explanation:

In natural selection, the term fitness means how successful the organism is in reproducing. If an organism has a large amount of offspring, but lives half as long as its similar organisms, it is still more successful because its genes will be apart of more offspring, who will reproduce themselves.

Example Question #10 : Natural Selection

In a particular habitat, Species A competes with Species B for food resources. Which type of competition is this?

Possible Answers:

Intraspecific interference competition

Interspecific exploitation competition

Interspecific interference competition

Intraspecific exploitation competition

Correct answer:

Interspecific exploitation competition

Explanation:

Interspecific competition is that which occurs between two different species. Exploitation competition involves the two groups of organisms competing for a limited resource, which may or may not involve direct contact between the species. Interference competition involves direct contact between organisms. 

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