MCAT Biology : Developmental Stages and Events

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for MCAT Biology

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Developmental Stages And Events

During embryogenesis, the separation of cells into the three individual germ layers first occurs during which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Gastrulation

Organogenesis

Cleavage

Fertilization

Neurulation

Correct answer:

Gastrulation

Explanation:

After fertilization occurs, the zygote undergoes a series of cellular divisions in a process called cleavage. This is followed by the formation of the blastula, a hollow sphere of cells. Gastrulation occurs next, where the embryo is divided into three germ layers: the endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm (from inside to outside). Hence, gastrulation is the stage in which this process first occurs. Neurulation and organogenesis occur after gastrulation.

Example Question #4 : Animal Development

During embryogenesis, the process in which a committed cell develops distinctive functions and characteristics is known as __________.

Possible Answers:

specification

induction

differentiation

determination

Correct answer:

differentiation

Explanation:

Once a committed cell begins to develop specialized functions, it is known as differentiation. Before a cell differentiates, it makes a commitment to a certain cell type, first by specification, which is reversible, and then by determination, which is irreversible. Once a cell is committed to a cell type, it undergoes differentiation to develop specific cell characteristics.

Induction is a process in which cells induce adjacent cells to commit to a certain cell type. 

Example Question #1 : Developmental Stages And Events

In what stage of embryogenesis does the embryo develop the three primary germ layers?

Possible Answers:

The blastocyst

The morula

The gastrula

The neurula

Correct answer:

The gastrula

Explanation:

The gastrula is formed during the second week following fertilization. At this stage, a process called gastrulation takes place. During gastrulation, the three primary germ layers are formed: the ectoderm, the mesoderm, and the endoderm.

Prior to gastrulation, the embryo is a blastocyst, and prior to that it is a morula. The morula forms soon after fertilization and is classified by cleavage divisions, increasing the number of cells without increasing the size of the embryo. The blastocyst is characterized by the formation of the inner cell mass and trophoblast; implantation occurs during this stage. After implantation, gastrulation occurs. After the gastrula stage, the embryo begins the process of neurulation (development of the primitive streak and notochord) and becomes a neurula.

Example Question #2 : Developmental Stages And Events

Which of the following options demonstrates the correct order of embryogenesis?

Possible Answers:

Fertilization  Blastula formation  Gastrulation  Cleavage

Fertilization  Cleavage  Gastrulation  Blastula formation

Fertilization  Blastula formation  Cleavage  Gastrulation

Fertilization  Cleavage  Blastula formation  Gastrulation

Correct answer:

Fertilization  Cleavage  Blastula formation  Gastrulation

Explanation:

The correct order is listed below.

1. Fertilization: the joining of an egg and sperm

2. Cleavage: early cell division in an embryo before a specific structure is formed

3. Blastula Formation: the cells of the embyro form a hollow structure filled with fluid

4. Gastrulation: the cells in the embryo migrate to form the three germ layers; the hole with fluid formed during the blastula stage is now filled with cells

Example Question #4 : Developmental Stages And Events

What is gastrulation?

Possible Answers:

Phase during embryogenesis when the embryo implants into the uterine lining

Phase during embryogenesis in which the single-layered blastula is reorganized into a solid ball of cells

Phase during embryogenesis in which a single-layered blastula is reorganized into a three-layered structure

Phase during embryogenesis in which multiple rapid mitotic divisions occur

Correct answer:

Phase during embryogenesis in which a single-layered blastula is reorganized into a three-layered structure

Explanation:

Gastrulation is the phase in embryogenesis in which the single-layered blastula is reorganized into a trilaminar structure called the gastrula. These three germ layers are called the endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm and give rise to individual organs during organogenesis.

The blastula is implanted into the uterine lining and the morula undergoes rapid cell divisions (cleavage) after fertilization of the zygote.

Example Question #3 : Developmental Stages And Events

Formation of the primitive streak occurs during what stage of embryogenesis?

Possible Answers:

Morula

Gastrula

Blastula

Neurula

Correct answer:

Blastula

Explanation:

The primitive streak forms in the blastula stage and establishes symmetry (left-right and cranial-caudal body axes). This spatial differentiation determines the site of gastrulation and initiates formation of the three germ layers. The epiblast (precursor to the ectoderm) invaginates to form the primitive streak. Cells from the primitive streak give rise to the mesoderm and the endoderm. Formation of the primitive streak marks the beginning of gastrulation.

Example Question #3 : Developmental Stages And Events

An experimental birth control method for women uses a chemical to directly prevent pregnancy by altering the protein coating on sperm. The changed protein coating on the sperm is likely to disrupt which of the following biological processes?

Possible Answers:

Oogenesis

Spermatogenesis

Ovulation

None of these

Fertilization

Correct answer:

Fertilization

Explanation:

Fertilization is the complete fusion of egg and sperm. If the chemically-altered sperm are unable to fertilize an egg, there will be no resulting pregnancy. Oogenesis is the process of ovum production. Spermatogenesis is not correct because the chemical is altering the protein coating after production, as the birth control is taken by the woman.

Example Question #4 : Developmental Stages And Events

Which of the following defines the process by which the entry of one sperm into an oocyte prevents other sperms from fertilizing the same egg?

Possible Answers:

Differentiation

The induction reaction

Determination

The cortical reaction

Correct answer:

The cortical reaction

Explanation:

Cortical reaction occurs in fertilization when a sperm enters the cytoplasm of an oocyte. The reaction causes a change in the zona pellucida that prevents polyspermy. Determination refers to the point at which a cell becomes committed to a certain developmental path during embryogenesis, and differentiation refers to the process by which that cell actually becomes a specialized tissue cell. Determination occurs very early during embryogenesis, whereas differentiation occurs later in the developmental process.

Example Question #31 : Reproductive System And Development

A new species found by scientists exhibits indeterminate cleavage up to the third cleavage.  If all of the cells in the embryo are separated and incubated in healthy conditions on their own after the third cleavage, how many organisms will develop?

Possible Answers:

4

8

1

2

0

Correct answer:

8

Explanation:

After the third cleavage, the embryo would be composed of 8 cells. If every cleavage step up up to this point was indeterminate, then each cell still has the necessary components to develop into a complete organism. The result would be 8 genetical identical organisms.

Example Question #9 : Developmental Stages And Events

Mishaps in cell cleavage events can result in which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Tetraploidy

Conjoined twins

All of these

Monozygotic twins

Mosaicism

Correct answer:

All of these

Explanation:

The series of mitotic divisions that convert a zygote to a multicellular blastocyst is known as cell cleavage. All of the listed answers are possible as a result of cleavage mishaps. Tetraploidy can result from cells that fail to cleave at the end of mitosis. Monozygotic twins are a result of unexpected cleavage events where the zygote splits into two identical halves. Depending on the timing of a cleavage event in a zygote, the split can result in conjoined twins. Mosaicism is a result of improper chromosome segregation during cleavage that can result two distinct karyotypes in a single embryo.

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