AP Environmental Science : Ecosystems and Biology

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Environmental Science

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Example Questions

Example Question #3 : Ecological Change

Which of the following does not represent a process leading to evolution?

Possible Answers:

Coevolution

Reproductive isolation

All of these

Geographic isolation

Speciation

Correct answer:

Coevolution

Explanation:

Coevolution occurs when one species evolves at the same time as another related species. Often one of these species is a prey-animal that adapts or develops traits that increase survival and reproductive rates. The predator that hunts the prey is required to adapt, increasing favorable traits that allow them, once again, to be able to hunt the prey. Coevolution is a type of evolution, but is not a cause of evolution.

Speciation is a general term referring to evolutionary processes leading to the creation of a new species. This occurs when a parent species is divided into at least two groups that are isolated from each other. These isolated groups adapt and mutate separately until they are no longer compatible for breeding.

Evolution caused by geographic isolation takes place when a species is separated into multiple groups due to a physical barrier of some kind (like a rock fall blocking a previously open canyon).

Evolution due to reproductive isolation occurs when members of two species that were previously able to produce viable offspring cannot due to changes in physical characteristics or behaviors. These species can procreate, but their offspring are not viable (able to reproduce).

Example Question #4 : Ecological Change

Which of the following terms describes the evolution that species have in response to one another and was authored by Charles Mode in 1958?  This term was used to describe his fascination with the evolutionary responses that crops and pests have to each other. 

Possible Answers:

Coevolution

Divergence 

Convergence

Sympatric 

Correct answer:

Coevolution

Explanation:

The correct answer is coevolution. It is defined as the continual evolution that interacting species have in response to each other.

Example Question #1 : Evolution

Which statement is true about genetic drift?

Possible Answers:

Genetic drift is completely random.

Genetic drift is a process created by humankind. 

Genetic drift occurs only in producers

Genetic drift occurs only in eukaryotes.

Genetic drift occurs only in animals.

Correct answer:

Genetic drift is completely random.

Explanation:

The correct response is: genetic drift is completely random. It is a natural process that occurs at random and has profound impacts on species. Thus, genetic drift was not created by humans - it's a natural process. Genetic drift occurs in life forms, from the prokaryotes to the eukaryotes. And genetic drift occurs in all living organisms: plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi.

Example Question #3 : Evolution

The diversification of the finches on the Galapagos Islands from a single founding species into many different species in different ecological niches is an example of __________.

Possible Answers:

parapatric speciation

peripatric speciation

adaptive radiation

sympatric speciation

allopatric speciation

Correct answer:

adaptive radiation

Explanation:

Because the Galapagos Islands cover a small area and have many ecological niches available, the evolution of Darwin's finches is best explained as adaptive radiation. Adaptive radiation refers to growing specialization between different types of the same species until they finally become different species, as with the small vs the large-beaked finches on the Galapagos, which eat different seeds.

Example Question #1 : Evolution

Which two ecologists developed the Theory of Island Biogeography? 

Possible Answers:

Charles Darwin and Aldo Leopold

E. O. Wilson and G. Evelyn Hutchinson

Robert MacArthur and E. O. Wilson

Aldo Leopold and Robert MacArthur

Rachel Carson and Robert MacArthur

Correct answer:

Robert MacArthur and E. O. Wilson

Explanation:

Together in the 1960's, MacArthur and Wilson coined the term "Island Biogeography" within the field of Insular Biogeography. This is a theory that attempts to predict the number of species existing on an island, whether a literal island, or simply a habitat isolated from like habitats by an "ocean" of unlike habitats.

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

Adaptations

Natural selection

Variability

Assortive mating

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 #1 : 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"

None of these

"Survival of the most impressive"

"Survival of the biggest"

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 #201 : Ap Environmental Sciences

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

Possible Answers:

All of these

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

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

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.

None of these

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 #2 : 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:

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

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

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. 

Gophers that burrow underground and forage for roots and insects. 

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 #1 : 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, mutation, and differential reproductive success

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

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

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. 

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