GMAT Verbal : Considering Analogous Concepts in Natural Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #251 : Comprehension

Adapted from “Birds in Retreat” in “Animal Defences—Active Defence” in 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)

Among the large running birds are forms, like the African ostrich, in which the absence of powers of flight is largely compensated by the specialization of the legs for the purpose of rapid movement on the ground. For straightforward retreat in open country nothing could be more effective; but another kind of adaptation is required in birds like rails, which are deficient in powers of flight, and yet are able to run through thickly-growing vegetation with such rapidity as to commonly elude their enemies. This is rendered possible by the shape of their bodies, which are relatively narrow and flattened from side to side, so as to easily slip between the stems of grasses, rushes, and similar plants. Anyone who has pursued our native land-rail or corn-crake with intent to capture will have noted how extremely difficult it is even to get within sight of a bird of this sort. 

Certain birds, unfortunately for themselves, have lost the power of flight without correspondingly increased powers of running, and have paid the penalty of extinction. Such an arrangement, as might be anticipated, was the result of evolution in islands devoid of any predatory ground-animals, and a classic example of it is afforded by the dodo and its allies, birds related to the pigeons. The dodo itself was a large and clumsy-looking species that at one time abounded in the island of Mauritius, which, like oceanic islands generally, possessed no native mammals, while its indigenous reptiles were only represented by lizards. The ubiquitous sailor, however, and the animals (especially swine) which he introduced, brought about the extinction of this helpless bird in less than a century after its first discovery in 1598. Its memory is now only kept green by a few contemporary drawings and descriptions, certain museum remains, and the proverb "as extinct as a dodo.” A similar fate must overtake any organism suddenly exposed to new and unfavorable conditions, if devoid of sufficient plasticity to rapidly accommodate itself to the altered environment.

The kiwi is a bird that lives in New Zealand. New Zealand has no native ground-dwelling predatory animals. The stoat, a ground-dwelling carnivorous mammal, was introduced to New Zealand. Based on the passage, what can you predict happened?

Possible Answers:

the kiwis quickly learned to defend themselves against stoats

the kiwi population rose

None of the other answers

the stoats could not support themselves in the new environment and died off

the kiwi population drastically decreased

Correct answer:

the kiwi population drastically decreased


The situation presented in this question lines up precisely with the dodo’s story in the passage. The kiwi, like the dodo, would thus be unable to defend itself from introduced predators, since like on Mauritius, New Zealand has no native ground-dwelling predators. We can therefore predict that in this situation, the kiwi population would decrease drastically, if not go extinct, so “the kiwi population drastically decreased” is the correct answer. (In fact, the kiwi and stoat situation actually happened in New Zealand. While the kiwi remains a living species, New Zealand has had to work very hard to protect it from stoats.)

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