ISEE Middle Level Reading : Textual Relationships in Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ISEE Middle Level Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #21 : Extrapolating From The Text In Natural Science Passages

Adapted from “Humming-Birds: As Illustrating the Luxuriance of Tropical Nature” in Tropical Nature, and Other Essays by Alfred Russel Wallace (1878)

The food of hummingbirds has been a matter of much controversy. All the early writers down to Buffon believed that they lived solely on the nectar of flowers, but since that time, every close observer of their habits maintains that they feed largely, and in some cases wholly, on insects. Azara observed them on the La Plata in winter taking insects out of the webs of spiders at a time and place where there were no flowers. Bullock, in Mexico, declares that he saw them catch small butterflies, and that he found many kinds of insects in their stomachs. Waterton made a similar statement. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of specimens have since been dissected by collecting naturalists, and in almost every instance their stomachs have been found full of insects, sometimes, but not generally, mixed with a proportion of honey. Many of them in fact may be seen catching gnats and other small insects just like fly-catchers, sitting on a dead twig over water, darting off for a time in the air, and then returning to the twig. Others come out just at dusk, and remain on the wing, now stationary, now darting about with the greatest rapidity, imitating in a limited space the evolutions of the goatsuckers, and evidently for the same end and purpose. Mr. Gosse also remarks, ” All the hummingbirds have more or less the habit, when in flight, of pausing in the air and throwing the body and tail into rapid and odd contortions. This is most observable in the Polytmus, from the effect that such motions have on the long feathers of the tail. That the object of these quick turns is the capture of insects, I am sure, having watched one thus engaged pretty close to me.”

Which of the following inferences does the passage expect its readers to make?

Possible Answers:

Scientists rarely learn about hummingbirds by dissecting them.

If a hummingbird eats gnats, it will not eat honey.

Fly-catchers are a type of insect.

If a hummingbird consumes flower nectar, this nectar will turn into the honey that can be found in its stomach.

The author is the first scientist to ever have investigated what hummingbirds eat.

Correct answer:

If a hummingbird consumes flower nectar, this nectar will turn into the honey that can be found in its stomach.

Explanation:

Let’s consider each of the answer choices to identify the correct one.

“The author is the first scientist to ever have investigated what hummingbirds eat.” - This cannot be true, because the author begins the passage by saying “The food of hummingbirds has been a matter of much controversy. All the early writers down to Buffon believed that they lived solely on the nectar of flowers, but since that time, every close observer of their habits maintains that they feed largely, and in some cases wholly, on insects.” He also cites numerous other scientists’ opinions throughout the passage, so he can’t be the first person to have investigated what hummingbirds eat.

“Fly-catchers are a type of insect.” - The passage mentions fly-catchers in the following sentence: “Many [hummingbirds] in fact may be seen catching gnats and other small insects just like fly-catchers, sitting on a dead twig over water, darting off for a time in the air, and then returning to the twig.” This is a tricky answer choice in that it’s easy to misread the sentence and think that “just like flycatchers” refers to “other small insects” when in fact it refers to the act of “catching.” The sentence is saying that hummingbirds catch insects in the same manner as fly-catchers, not that fly-catchers are a type of insect. Plus, we are being asked to identify an inference readers are expected to make, and if this sentence did mean that fly-catchers were insects, it would be overtly telling us this, and there would be nothing we’d have to infer.

“Scientists rarely learn about hummingbirds by dissecting them.” - This answer choice is proven wrong by the following sentence: “Hundreds and perhaps thousands of specimens have since been dissected by collecting naturalists, and in almost every instance their stomachs have been found full of insects, sometimes, but not generally, mixed with a proportion of honey.”

“If a hummingbird eats gnats, it will not eat honey.” - Given that the questions of whether hummingbirds eat insects or honey and in what proportions is the topic of the passage, it may be easy to choose this answer choice because it seems like the one closest to the passage’s main idea; however, nothing in the passage supports this assertion.

“If a hummingbird consumes flower nectar, this nectar will turn into the honey that can be found in its stomach.” - This is the correct answer! The author initially states that “All the early writers down to Buffon believed that [hummingbirds] lived solely on the nectar of flowers”; however, he later states that “Hundreds and perhaps thousands of specimens have since been dissected by collecting naturalists, and in almost every instance their stomachs have been found full of insects, sometimes, but not generally, mixed with a proportion of honey.” The author does not address the idea that flower nectar and honey could be different substances, and instead expects the reader to treat these as one source of food.

Example Question #21 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

Adapted from “Humming-Birds: As Illustrating the Luxuriance of Tropical Nature” in Tropical Nature, and Other Essays by Alfred Russel Wallace (1878)

The food of hummingbirds has been a matter of much controversy. All the early writers down to Buffon believed that they lived solely on the nectar of flowers, but since that time, every close observer of their habits maintains that they feed largely, and in some cases wholly, on insects. Azara observed them on the La Plata in winter taking insects out of the webs of spiders at a time and place where there were no flowers. Bullock, in Mexico, declares that he saw them catch small butterflies, and that he found many kinds of insects in their stomachs. Waterton made a similar statement. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of specimens have since been dissected by collecting naturalists, and in almost every instance their stomachs have been found full of insects, sometimes, but not generally, mixed with a proportion of honey. Many of them in fact may be seen catching gnats and other small insects just like fly-catchers, sitting on a dead twig over water, darting off for a time in the air, and then returning to the twig. Others come out just at dusk, and remain on the wing, now stationary, now darting about with the greatest rapidity, imitating in a limited space the evolutions of the goatsuckers, and evidently for the same end and purpose. Mr. Gosse also remarks, ” All the hummingbirds have more or less the habit, when in flight, of pausing in the air and throwing the body and tail into rapid and odd contortions. This is most observable in the Polytmus, from the effect that such motions have on the long feathers of the tail. That the object of these quick turns is the capture of insects, I am sure, having watched one thus engaged pretty close to me.”

Based on the way the term is used in passage, what is “the Polytmus”?

Possible Answers:

A type of carnivorous mammal that eats hummingbirds

A type of hummingbird with particularly bright coloring

A type of hummingbird with a long tail

A scientific term for a fledgling hummingbird that cannot yet fly

A species of flower that often attracts hummingbirds

Correct answer:

A type of hummingbird with a long tail

Explanation:

Let’s look at the spot in the passage where “the Polytmus” is mentioned: 

“Mr. Gosse also remarks, ‘All the hummingbirds have more or less the habit, when in flight, of pausing in the air and throwing the body and tail into rapid and odd contortions. This is most observable in the Polytmus, from the effect that such motions have on the long feathers of the tail.’” 

From this context, we can tell that the Polytmus isn’t a carnivorous hummingbird-eating mammal, or a species of flower: it is a hummingbird. It is mentioned in the context of flying, so it can’t refer to a fledgling hummingbird that can’t yet fly. So, is it mentioning a type of hummingbird with particularly bright coloring, or one with a long tail? Mr. Gosse mentions the Polytmus in particular because observers can easily see it contort in midair “from the effect that such motions have on the long feathers of the tail.” So, the Polytmus must be “a type of hummingbird with a long tail.”

Example Question #1 : Inferences And Predictions In Argumentative Science Passages

Adapted from “Introduced Species That Have Become Pests” in Our Vanishing Wild Life, Its Extermination and Protection by William Temple Hornaday (1913)

The man who successfully transplants or "introduces" into a new habitat any persistent species of living thing assumes a very grave responsibility. Every introduced species is doubtful gravel until panned out. The enormous losses that have been inflicted upon the world through the perpetuation of follies with wild vertebrates and insects would, if added together, be enough to purchase a principality. The most aggravating feature of these follies in transplantation is that never yet have they been made severely punishable. We are just as careless and easygoing on this point as we were about the government of the Yellowstone Park in the days when Howell and other poachers destroyed our first national bison herd, and when caught red-handed—as Howell was, skinning seven Park bison cows—could not be punished for it, because there was no penalty prescribed by any law. Today, there is a way in which any revengeful person could inflict enormous damage on the entire South, at no cost to himself, involve those states in enormous losses and the expenditure of vast sums of money, yet go absolutely unpunished!

The gypsy moth is a case in point. This winged calamity was imported at Maiden, Massachusetts, near Boston, by a French entomologist, Mr. Leopold Trouvelot, in 1868 or 69. History records the fact that the man of science did not purposely set free the pest. He was endeavoring with live specimens to find a moth that would produce a cocoon of commercial value to America, and a sudden gust of wind blew out of his study, through an open window, his living and breeding specimens of the gypsy moth. The moth itself is not bad to look at, but its larvae is a great, overgrown brute with an appetite like a hog. Immediately Mr. Trouvelot sought to recover his specimens, and when he failed to find them all, like a man of real honor, he notified the State authorities of the accident. Every effort was made to recover all the specimens, but enough escaped to produce progeny that soon became a scourge to the trees of Massachusetts. The method of the big, nasty-looking mottled-brown caterpillar was very simple. It devoured the entire foliage of every tree that grew in its sphere of influence.

The gypsy moth spread with alarming rapidity and persistence. In course of time, the state authorities of Massachusetts were forced to begin a relentless war upon it, by poisonous sprays and by fire. It was awful! Up to this date (1912) the New England states and the United States Government service have expended in fighting this pest about $7,680,000!

The spread of this pest has been retarded, but the gypsy moth never will be wholly stamped out. Today it exists in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and it is due to reach New York at an early date. It is steadily spreading in three directions from Boston, its original point of departure, and when it strikes the State of New York, we, too, will begin to pay dearly for the Trouvelot experiment.

Based on the first paragraph, the author would be most likely to support __________.

Possible Answers:

introducing damaging invasive species to the South

granting Howell clemency for his actions

keeping bison out of Yellowstone National Park

an effort to catalogue the exact amount of money invasive species have cost the United States

a law severely punishing those who introduce invasive species that damage the environment

Correct answer:

a law severely punishing those who introduce invasive species that damage the environment

Explanation:

One of the author’s main points in the first paragraph is that harsher legal repercussions are needed for those who release damaging invasive species into the United States. This is clear when the author writes, “The most aggravating feature of these follies in transplantation is that never yet have they been made severely punishable.” Thus, we can infer that the author would be most likely to support “a law severely punishing those who introduce invasive species that damage the environment.” Though the author does discuss the potential for someone to introduce invasive species to the South, he is not in favor of this, and he clearly doesn’t want to grant Howell clemency for his actions. (Furthermore, “clemency” somewhat implies that Howell has been charged with a crime, and the author explains that this isn’t the case.) 

The author does state, “The enormous losses that have been inflicted upon the world through the perpetuation of follies with wild vertebrates and insects would, if added together, be enough to purchase a principality,” and we can therefore assume that he might support cataloguing the amount of money invasive species have cost the United States. However, this inference requires a much larger logical leap than does the one that the author would support harsher legal punishments for those who introduce damaging invasive species, making “a law severely punishing those who introduce invasive species that damage the environment” the best answer. If you’re unsure when picking between answers to an inference question, it’s usually a good idea to see which one is more relevant to the passage’s topic and has the most evidence supporting it.

Example Question #11 : Inference About The Author

dapted from “Introduced Species That Have Become Pests” in Our Vanishing Wild Life, Its Extermination and Protection by William Temple Hornaday (1913)

The man who successfully transplants or "introduces" into a new habitat any persistent species of living thing assumes a very grave responsibility. Every introduced species is doubtful gravel until panned out. The enormous losses that have been inflicted upon the world through the perpetuation of follies with wild vertebrates and insects would, if added together, be enough to purchase a principality. The most aggravating feature of these follies in transplantation is that never yet have they been made severely punishable. We are just as careless and easygoing on this point as we were about the government of the Yellowstone Park in the days when Howell and other poachers destroyed our first national bison herd, and when caught red-handed—as Howell was, skinning seven Park bison cows—could not be punished for it, because there was no penalty prescribed by any law. Today, there is a way in which any revengeful person could inflict enormous damage on the entire South, at no cost to himself, involve those states in enormous losses and the expenditure of vast sums of money, yet go absolutely unpunished!

The gypsy moth is a case in point. This winged calamity was imported at Maiden, Massachusetts, near Boston, by a French entomologist, Mr. Leopold Trouvelot, in 1868 or 69. History records the fact that the man of science did not purposely set free the pest. He was endeavoring with live specimens to find a moth that would produce a cocoon of commercial value to America, and a sudden gust of wind blew out of his study, through an open window, his living and breeding specimens of the gypsy moth. The moth itself is not bad to look at, but its larvae is a great, overgrown brute with an appetite like a hog. Immediately Mr. Trouvelot sought to recover his specimens, and when he failed to find them all, like a man of real honor, he notified the State authorities of the accident. Every effort was made to recover all the specimens, but enough escaped to produce progeny that soon became a scourge to the trees of Massachusetts. The method of the big, nasty-looking mottled-brown caterpillar was very simple. It devoured the entire foliage of every tree that grew in its sphere of influence.

The gypsy moth spread with alarming rapidity and persistence. In course of time, the state authorities of Massachusetts were forced to begin a relentless war upon it, by poisonous sprays and by fire. It was awful! Up to this date (1912) the New England states and the United States Government service have expended in fighting this pest about $7,680,000!

The spread of this pest has been retarded, but the gypsy moth never will be wholly stamped out. Today it exists in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and it is due to reach New York at an early date. It is steadily spreading in three directions from Boston, its original point of departure, and when it strikes the State of New York, we, too, will begin to pay dearly for the Trouvelot experiment.

If the author were to learn that the gypsy moth could be efficiently repelled from trees by coating them with a cheap, natural substance, he would likely feel __________.

Possible Answers:

pessimistic

horrified

exuberant

anxious

unsurprised

Correct answer:

exuberant

Explanation:

Throughout the passage, the author makes it apparent that he feels that the gypsy moth is a very damaging invasive species that causes a lot of problems in the United States. He calls it a “winged calamity” and, in the third paragraph, describes how it spread:

“The gypsy moth spread with alarming rapidity and persistence. In course of time, the state authorities of Massachusetts were forced to begin a relentless war upon it, by poisonous sprays and by fire. It was awful! Up to this date (1912) the New England states and the United States Government service have expended in fighting this pest about $7,680,000!”

From this paragraph, we can tell that if the author were to learn that the gypsy moth could be efficiently stopped from damaging trees, he would be most likely to feel “exuberant,” or excited and happy. Nothing in the passage supports any of the other answers.

Example Question #21 : Reading Comprehension

Adapted from 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)

The examples of protective resemblance so far quoted are mostly permanent adaptations to one particular sort of surrounding. There are, however, numerous animals which possess the power of adjusting their color more or less rapidly so as to harmonize with a changing environment.

Some of the best known of these cases are found among those mammals and birds that inhabit countries more or less covered with snow during a part of the year. A good instance is afforded by the Irish or variable hare, which is chiefly found in Ireland and Scotland. In summer, this looks very much like an ordinary hare, though rather grayer in tint and smaller in size, but in winter it becomes white with the exception of the black tips to the ears. Investigations that have been made on the closely allied American hare seem to show that the phenomenon is due to the growth of new hairs of white hue. 

The common stoat is subject to similar color change in the northern parts of its range. In summer it is of a bright reddish brown color with the exception of the under parts, which are yellowish white, and the end of the tail, which is black. But in winter, the entire coat, save only the tip of the tail, becomes white, and in that condition the animal is known as an ermine. A similar example is afforded by the weasel. The seasonal change in the vegetarian Irish hare is purely of protective character, but in such an actively carnivorous creature as a stoat or weasel, it is aggressive as well, rendering the animal inconspicuous to its prey.

What can we infer preceded this paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Descriptions of animals that have not adapted to their environments

Descriptions of animals that defend themselves by looking like things in a changing environment

Descriptions of animals that hunt other animals efficiently by camouflaging themselves

Descriptions of animals that defend themselves by looking like things in a stable environment

Descriptions of changing environments

Correct answer:

Descriptions of animals that defend themselves by looking like things in a stable environment

Explanation:

In order to infer what likely “preceded,” or came before, this passage, we should take at what the passage is talking about right when it starts. The passage’s first sentence says, “The examples of protective resemblance so far quoted are mostly permanent adaptations to one particular sort of surrounding.” The “so far quoted” means so far said or provided and tells us that the writer has been talking about “examples of protective resemblance.” This means that the writer most likely discussed “animals that defend themselves by looking like things in a stable environment” in the part of the book that comes right before the passage.

Example Question #31 : Science Passages

Adapted from 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)

The examples of protective resemblance so far quoted are mostly permanent adaptations to one particular sort of surrounding. There are, however, numerous animals which possess the power of adjusting their color more or less rapidly so as to harmonize with a changing environment.

Some of the best known of these cases are found among those mammals and birds that inhabit countries more or less covered with snow during a part of the year. A good instance is afforded by the Irish or variable hare, which is chiefly found in Ireland and Scotland. In summer, this looks very much like an ordinary hare, though rather grayer in tint and smaller in size, but in winter it becomes white with the exception of the black tips to the ears. Investigations that have been made on the closely allied American hare seem to show that the phenomenon is due to the growth of new hairs of white hue. 

The common stoat is subject to similar color change in the northern parts of its range. In summer it is of a bright reddish brown color with the exception of the under parts, which are yellowish white, and the end of the tail, which is black. But in winter, the entire coat, save only the tip of the tail, becomes white, and in that condition the animal is known as an ermine. A similar example is afforded by the weasel. The seasonal change in the vegetarian Irish hare is purely of protective character, but in such an actively carnivorous creature as a stoat or weasel, it is aggressive as well, rendering the animal inconspicuous to its prey.

Based on the passage, what can we infer about the weasel?

Possible Answers:

Like the stoat, it also lives in burrows.

Like the Irish hare, has been the subject of investigations.

Like the stoat, it also changes its coat color.

Like the stoat, it has claws.

Like the Irish hare, it has grey fur in the summer.

Correct answer:

Like the stoat, it also changes its coat color.

Explanation:

The weasel is mentioned in two places in the passage, both in the passage’s last paragraph, both reproduced here:

“But in winter, the entire coat [of the stoat], save only the tip of the tail, becomes white, and in that condition the animal is known as an ermine. A similar example is afforded by the
weasel. The seasonal change in the vegetarian Irish hare is purely of protective character, but in such an actively carnivorous creature as a stoat or weasel, it is aggressive as well, rendering the animal inconspicuous to its prey.”

What does the passage tell us about the weasel? Well, we can infer that it is in some way like the stoat, because the passage says “A similar example is afforded by the weasel” right after describing how the stoat’s fur changes color. We are also told that it is carnivorous, but this is not an inference we have to make, and it doesn’t relate to any of the answer choices. The best answer choice is “Like the stoat, it also changes its coat color.” This captures the specific similarity between the stoat and weasel being discussed when the author writes, “A similar example is afforded by the weasel.”

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences And Predictions In Science Passages

Adapted from Cassell’s Natural History by Francis Martin Duncan (1913)

The penguins are a group of birds inhabiting the southern ocean, for the most part passing their lives in the icy waters of the Antarctic seas. Like the ratitae, penguins have lost the power of flight, but the wings are modified into swimming organs and the birds lead an aquatic existence and are scarcely seen on land except in the breeding season. They are curious-looking creatures that appear to have no legs, as the limbs are encased in the skin of the body and the large flat feet are set so far back that the birds waddle along on land in an upright position in a very ridiculous manner, carrying their long narrow flippers held out as if they were arms. When swimming, penguins use their wings as paddles while the feet are used for steering.

Penguins are usually gregarious—in the sea, they swim together in schools, and on land, assemble in great numbers in their rookeries. They are very methodical in their ways, and on leaving the water, the birds always follow well-defined tracks leading to the rookeries, marching with much solemnity one behind the other in soldierly order. 

The largest species of penguins are the king penguin and the emperor penguin, the former being found in Kerguelen Land, the Falklands, and other southern islands, and the latter in Victoria Land and on the pack ice of the Antarctic seas. As they are unaccustomed from the isolation of their haunts to being hunted and persecuted by man, emperor penguins are remarkably fearless, and Antarctic explorers invading their territory have found themselves objects of curiosity rather than fear to the strange birds who followed them about as if they were much astonished at their appearance. 

The emperor penguin lays but a single egg and breeds during the intense cold and darkness of the Antarctic winter. To prevent contact with the frozen snow, the bird places its egg upon its flat webbed feet and crouches down upon it so that it is well covered with the feathers. In spite of this precaution, many eggs do not hatch and the mortality amongst the young chicks is very great.

We can infer from the passage that penguins probably eat __________ because the passage tells us that __________.

Possible Answers:

polar bears . . . penguins are unafraid of explorers

kelp and other sea plants . . . penguins are slow in the water

fish . . . penguins live most of their lives in the water

microscopic sea creatures . . . the emperor penguin only lays one egg at a time

seals . . . penguins are carnivorous and hunt in groups

Correct answer:

fish . . . penguins live most of their lives in the water

Explanation:

We can narrow down our answer choices by considering which of the options for the second blank the passage actually tells us. This allows us to eliminate the answer choices containing “penguins are carnivorous and hunt in groups” and “penguins are slow in the water.” Deciding between the remaining three answer choices, it doesn’t make sense that penguins would eat “polar bears” because they “are unafraid of explorers”—the second part of the answer may suggest that penguins are bold, and from this we might infer that penguins might try to fight and eat a polar bear, but it’s unlikely that would end well; the reverse is true. It is also doesn’t make sense that penguins would eat “microscopic sea creatures” because “the emperor penguin only lays one egg at a time”—these ideas are unrelated. This leaves us with the correct answer, the idea that penguins probably eat “fish” because “penguins live most of their lives in the water.” This makes sense; if penguins spend most of their lives in the water, they probably eat something that is found in the water, and fish are found in the water.

Example Question #72 : Narrative Science Passages

Adapted from Cassell’s Natural History by Francis Martin Duncan (1913)

The penguins are a group of birds inhabiting the southern ocean, for the most part passing their lives in the icy waters of the Antarctic seas. Like the ratitae, penguins have lost the power of flight, but the wings are modified into swimming organs and the birds lead an aquatic existence and are scarcely seen on land except in the breeding season. They are curious-looking creatures that appear to have no legs, as the limbs are encased in the skin of the body and the large flat feet are set so far back that the birds waddle along on land in an upright position in a very ridiculous manner, carrying their long narrow flippers held out as if they were arms. When swimming, penguins use their wings as paddles while the feet are used for steering.

Penguins are usually gregarious—in the sea, they swim together in schools, and on land, assemble in great numbers in their rookeries. They are very methodical in their ways, and on leaving the water, the birds always follow well-defined tracks leading to the rookeries, marching with much solemnity one behind the other in soldierly order. 

The largest species of penguins are the king penguin and the emperor penguin, the former being found in Kerguelen Land, the Falklands, and other southern islands, and the latter in Victoria Land and on the pack ice of the Antarctic seas. As they are unaccustomed from the isolation of their haunts to being hunted and persecuted by man, emperor penguins are remarkably fearless, and Antarctic explorers invading their territory have found themselves objects of curiosity rather than fear to the strange birds who followed them about as if they were much astonished at their appearance. 

The emperor penguin lays but a single egg and breeds during the intense cold and darkness of the Antarctic winter. To prevent contact with the frozen snow, the bird places its egg upon its flat webbed feet and crouches down upon it so that it is well covered with the feathers. In spite of this precaution, many eggs do not hatch and the mortality amongst the young chicks is very great.

What can you infer is “the ratitae," underlined in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

A type of flightless bird

A bird that lives in Antarctica

A type of fish

A bird that swims

A bone found in most birds’ skeletons

Correct answer:

A type of flightless bird

Explanation:

The ratitae is mentioned in the paragraph’s first passage, when the author writes, “Like the ratitae, penguins have lost the power of flight, but the wings are modified into swimming organs and the birds lead an aquatic existence and are scarcely seen on land except in the breeding season.” In analyzing this, it’s important to ask: to what part of the sentence is “Like the ratitae” specifically referring? It is referring to the fact that “penguins have lost the power of flight.” Thus, the comparison being made here is that both the ratitae and the penguins “have lost the power of flight.” Therefore, we can infer that “the ratitae” is “a type of flightless bird.” 

You may have picked out “a bird that lives in Antarctica” based on the information that precedes the comparison or “a bird that swims” based on the information that follows it. However, neither of these comparisons are being made in the passage: it is specifically the fact that both the ratitae and penguins “have lost the power of flight” that is being stated. Nothing in the passage suggests that “the ratitae” is “a bone found in most birds’ skeletons” or “a type of fish.”

Example Question #101 : Content Of Natural Science Passages

Adapted from “Feathers of Sea Birds and Wild Fowl for Bedding” from The Utility of Birds by Edward Forbush (ed. 1922)

In the colder countries of the world, the feathers and down of waterfowl have been in great demand for centuries as filling for beds and pillows. Such feathers are perfect non-conductors of heat, and beds, pillows, or coverlets filled with them represent the acme of comfort and durability. The early settlers of New England saved for such purposes the feathers and down from the thousands of wild-fowl which they killed, but as the population increased in numbers, the quantity thus furnished was insufficient, and the people sought a larger supply in the vast colonies of ducks and geese along the Labrador coast. 

The manner in which the feathers and down were obtained, unlike the method practiced in Iceland, did not tend to conserve and protect the source of supply. In Iceland, the people have continued to receive for many years a considerable income by collecting eider down, but there they do not “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.” Ducks line their nests with down plucked from their own breasts and that of the eider is particularly valuable for bedding. In Iceland, these birds are so carefully protected that they have become as tame and unsuspicious as domestic fowls In North America. Where they are constantly hunted they often conceal their nests in the midst of weeds or bushes, but in Iceland, they make their nests and deposit their eggs in holes dug for them in the sod. A supply of the ducks is maintained so that the people derive from them an annual income.

In North America, quite a different policy was pursued. The demand for feathers became so great in the New England colonies about the middle of the eighteenth century that vessels were fitted out there for the coast of Labrador for the express purpose of securing the feathers and down of wild fowl. Eider down having become valuable and these ducks being in the habit of congregating by thousands on barren islands of the Labrador coast, the birds became the victims of the ships’ crews. As the ducks molt all their primary feathers at once in July or August and are then quite incapable of flight and the young birds are unable to fly until well grown, the hunters were able to surround the helpless birds, drive them together, and kill them with clubs. Otis says that millions of wildfowl were thus destroyed and that in a few years their haunts were so broken up by this wholesale slaughter and their numbers were so diminished that feather voyages became unprofitable and were given up. 

This practice, followed by the almost continual egging, clubbing, shooting, etc. by Labrador fishermen, may have been a chief factor in the extinction of the Labrador duck, that species of supposed restricted breeding range. No doubt had the eider duck been restricted in its breeding range to the islands of Labrador, it also would have been exterminated long ago.

Which of the following would you LEAST expect to be discussed elsewhere in the book from which this passage was taken?

Possible Answers:

The raising of chickens for their eggs

The practice of sending messages by carrier pigeon

The use of tropical birds’ feathers as hat decorations

Falconry

The types of birds encountered by the first Antarctic explorers

Correct answer:

The types of birds encountered by the first Antarctic explorers

Explanation:

The passage describes how humans use the eider down produced by eider ducks as a commodity for its insulating properties. Given this focus, along with the title of the book from which the passage is taken, The Utility of Birds, we can assume that other topics discussed in the books would deal with ways in which birds are useful to humans. “The use of tropical birds’ feathers as hat decorations,” “the raising of chickens for their eggs,” “falconry,” and “the practice of sending messages by carrier pigeon” all deal with ways in which birds are useful to humans, but “The types of birds encountered by the first Antarctic explorers” does not relate to how birds are useful to humans, so it would be least likely to be discussed elsewhere in a book called The Utility of Birds and is the correct answer.

Example Question #101 : Content Of Natural Science Passages

Adapted from “Feathers of Sea Birds and Wild Fowl for Bedding” from The Utility of Birds by Edward Forbush (ed. 1922)

In the colder countries of the world, the feathers and down of waterfowl have been in great demand for centuries as filling for beds and pillows. Such feathers are perfect non-conductors of heat, and beds, pillows, or coverlets filled with them represent the acme of comfort and durability. The early settlers of New England saved for such purposes the feathers and down from the thousands of wild-fowl which they killed, but as the population increased in numbers, the quantity thus furnished was insufficient, and the people sought a larger supply in the vast colonies of ducks and geese along the Labrador coast. 

The manner in which the feathers and down were obtained, unlike the method practiced in Iceland, did not tend to conserve and protect the source of supply. In Iceland, the people have continued to receive for many years a considerable income by collecting eider down, but there they do not “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.” Ducks line their nests with down plucked from their own breasts and that of the eider is particularly valuable for bedding. In Iceland, these birds are so carefully protected that they have become as tame and unsuspicious as domestic fowls In North America. Where they are constantly hunted they often conceal their nests in the midst of weeds or bushes, but in Iceland, they make their nests and deposit their eggs in holes dug for them in the sod. A supply of the ducks is maintained so that the people derive from them an annual income.

In North America, quite a different policy was pursued. The demand for feathers became so great in the New England colonies about the middle of the eighteenth century that vessels were fitted out there for the coast of Labrador for the express purpose of securing the feathers and down of wild fowl. Eider down having become valuable and these ducks being in the habit of congregating by thousands on barren islands of the Labrador coast, the birds became the victims of the ships’ crews. As the ducks molt all their primary feathers at once in July or August and are then quite incapable of flight and the young birds are unable to fly until well grown, the hunters were able to surround the helpless birds, drive them together, and kill them with clubs. Otis says that millions of wildfowl were thus destroyed and that in a few years their haunts were so broken up by this wholesale slaughter and their numbers were so diminished that feather voyages became unprofitable and were given up. 

This practice, followed by the almost continual egging, clubbing, shooting, etc. by Labrador fishermen, may have been a chief factor in the extinction of the Labrador duck, that species of supposed restricted breeding range. No doubt had the eider duck been restricted in its breeding range to the islands of Labrador, it also would have been exterminated long ago.

Which of the following most likely happened after the Labrador feather voyages were no longer organized?

Possible Answers:

A population of the Labrador duck was reestablished.

Eider down began to be used for other purposes in North America.

The quality of bedding in North America became preferable to that found in Iceland.

North Americans imported eider down from Iceland.

The price of eider down in North America plummeted.

Correct answer:

North Americans imported eider down from Iceland.

Explanation:

The first paragraph tells us that the Labrador feather voyages were organized to keep up with an increased demand for eider down caused by an increased North American population. The passage doesn’t mention any alternative sources of eider down being used after the Labrador feather voyages were no longer organized. Therefore, we can eliminate the answer choice “The price of eider down in North America plummeted” since if eider down became more rare, its price would likely have gone up, not down. We can also eliminate the answer choice “Eider down began to be used for other purposes in North America” as this is not suggested in the passage at all and would require more information to be supported. “The quality of bedding in North America became preferable to that found in Iceland” cannot be correct either, as in the first paragraph, the author claims that eider down makes the best bedding, and if eider down becomes rare in North America, it’s not likely that the quality of North American bedding will exceed that of bedding made in Iceland, where eider down is assumed to be more available. “A population of the Labrador duck was reestablished.” cannot be the correct answer because the passage tells us that the Labrador duck went extinct, and if a species is extinct, there are no living members left from which populations of it could be reestablished. This leaves us with one answer, the correct one: “North American populations had to import eider down from Iceland.” This makes sense, as if less eider down were available in North America but there was still a desire for it, it would be likely to be imported from elsewhere in the world.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors