SAT reading comprehension practice test 07

The extract is taken from Darwin's book The Voyage of the Beagle.In the book he describes his voyage around the world as a ship's naturalist. On this voyage he gathered evidence that was to lead him to put forward his Theory of Evolution.

    That large animals require a luxuriant vegetation, has
    been a general assumption which has passed from
    one work to another; but I do not hesitate to say that
    it is completely false, and that it has vitiated the
5   reasoning of geologists on some points of great
    interest in the ancient history of the world. The
    prejudice has probably been derived from India, and
    the Indian islands, where troops of elephants, noble
    forests, and impenetrable jungles, are associated
10  together in every one's mind. If, however, we refer to
    any work of travels through the southern parts of
    Africa, we shall find allusions in almost every page
    either to the desert character of the country, or to the
    numbers of large animals inhabiting it. The same
15  thing is rendered evident by the many engravings
    which have been published of various parts of the

    Dr. Andrew Smith, who has lately succeeded in
    passing the Tropic of Capricorn, informs me that,
20  taking into consideration the whole of the southern
    part of Africa, there can be no doubt of its being a
    sterile country. On the southern coasts there are some
    fine forests, but with these exceptions, the traveller
    may pass for days together through open plains,
25  covered by a poor and scanty vegetation. Now, if we
    look to the animals inhabiting these wide plains, we
    shall find their numbers extraordinarily great, and
    their bulk immense. We must enumerate the elephant,
    three species of rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, the
30  giraffe, the bos caffer, two zebras, two gnus, and
    several antelopes even larger than these latter
    animals. It may be supposed that although the species
    are numerous, the individuals of each kind are few.
    By the kindness of Dr. Smith, I am enabled to show
35  that the case is very different. He informs me, that in
    lat. 24', in one day's march with the bullock-wagons,
    he saw, without wandering to any great distance on
    either side, between one hundred and one hundred
    and fifty rhinoceroses - the same day he saw several
40  herds of giraffes, amounting together to nearly a
    hundred. At the distance of a little more than one
    hour's march from their place of encampment on the
    previous night, his party actually killed at one spot
    eight hippopotamuses, and saw many more. In this
45  same river there were likewise crocodiles. Of course
    it was a case quite extraordinary, to see so many great
    animals crowded together, but it evidently proves that
    they must exist in great numbers. Dr. Smith describes
    the country passed through that day, as 'being thinly
50  covered with grass, and bushes about four feet high,
    and still more thinly with mimosa-trees.'

    Besides these large animals, every one the least
    acquainted with the natural history of the Cape, has
    read of the herds of antelopes, which can be
55  compared only with the flocks of migratory birds.
    The numbers indeed of the lion, panther, and hyena,
    and the multitude of birds of prey, plainly speak of
    the abundance of the smaller quadrupeds: one
    evening seven lions were counted at the same time
60  prowling round Dr. Smith's encampment. As this able
    naturalist remarked to me, the carnage each day in
    Southern Africa must indeed he terrific! I confess it is
    truly surprising how such a number of animals can
    find support in a country producing so little food. The
65  larger quadrupeds no doubt roam over wide tracts in
    search of it; and their food chiefly consists of
    underwood, which probably contains much nutriment
    in a small bulk. Dr. Smith also informs me that the
    vegetation has a rapid growth; no sooner is a part
70  consumed, than its place is supplied by a fresh stock.
    There can be no doubt, however, that our ideas
    respecting the apparent amount of food necessary for
    the support of large quadrupeds are much

75  The belief that where large quadrupeds exist, the
    vegetation must necessarily be luxuriant, is the more
    remarkable, because the converse is far from true. Mr.
    Burchell observed to me that when entering Brazil,
    nothing struck him more forcibly than the splendour of
80  the South American vegetation contrasted with that of
    South Africa, together with the absence of all large
    quadrupeds. In his Travels, he has suggested that the
    comparison of the respective weights (if there were
    sufficient data) of an equal number of the largest
85  herbivorous quadrupeds of each country would be
    extremely curious. If we take on the one side, the
    elephants hippopotamus, giraffe, bos caffer, elan,five
    species of rhinoceros; and on the American side, two
    tapirs, the guanaco, three deer, the vicuna, peccari,
90  capybara (after which we must choose from the
    monkeys to complete the number), and then place
    these two groups alongside each other it is not easy to
    conceive ranks more disproportionate in size. After the
    above facts, we are compelled to conclude, against
95  anterior probability, that among the mammalia there
    exists no close relation between the bulk of the
    species, and the quantity of the vegetation, in the
    countries which they inhabit.

Adapted from: Voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin (1890)

1. The author is primarily concerned with

A. discussing the relationship between the size of mammals and the nature of vegetation in their habitats
B. contrasting ecological conditions in India and Africa
C. proving the large animals do not require much food
D. describing the size of animals in various parts of the world
E. explaining that the reasoning of some geologists is completely false

2. The word ‘vitiated’ (line 4) most nearly means

A. infiltrated
B. occupied
C. impaired
D. invigorated
E. strengthened

3. According to the author, the ‘prejudice’ (line 7) has lead to

A. errors in the reasoning of biologists
B. false ideas about animals in Africa
C. incorrect assumptions on the part of geologists
D. doubt in the mind of the author
E. confusion in natural history

4. The author uses information provided by Dr. Smith to

I supply information on quality and quantity of plant life in South Africa
II indicate the presence of large numbers of animals
III give evidence of numbers of carnivorous animals

A. I only
B. II only
C. III only
D. I and II only
E. I, II and III

5. The flocks of migratory birds (line 55)are mentioned to

A. describe an aspect of the fauna of South Africa
B. illustrate a possible source of food for large carnivores
C. contrast with the habits of the antelope
D. suggest the size of antelope herds
E. indicate the abundance of wildlife

6. The ‘carnage’ (line 61) refers to the

A. number of animals killed by hunters
B. number of prey animals killed by predators
C. number of people killed by lions
D. amount of food eaten by all species
E. damage caused by large animals

7. To account for the ‘surprising’ (line 63) number of animals in a ‘country producing so little food’ (line 64), Darwin suggests all of the following as partial explanations except

A. food which is a concentrated source of nutrients
B. rapid regrowth of plant material
C. large area for animals to forage in
D. mainly carnivorous animals
E. food requirements have been overestimated

8. The author makes his point by reference to all of the following except

A. travel books
B. published illustrations
C. private communications
D. recorded observations
E. historical documents

9. Darwin quotes Burchell’s observations in order to

A. counter a popular misconception
B. describe a region of great splendor
C. prove a hypothesis
D. illustrate a well-known phenomenon
E. account for a curious situation

10. Darwin apparently regards Dr. Smith as

A. reliable and imaginative
B. intrepid and competent
C. observant and excitable
D. foolhardy and tiresome
E. incontrovertible and peerless

11. Darwin’s parenthetical remark (line 83-84) indicates that

A. Burchell’s data are not reliable
B. Burchell’s ideas are not to be given much weight
C. comparison of the weights of herbivores is largely speculative
D. Darwin’s views differ from Burchell’s
E. more figures are needed before any comparison can be attempted

12. Anterior probability (line 95) refers to

A. what might have been expected
B. ideas of earlier explorers
C. likelihood based on data from India
D. hypotheses of other scientists
E. former information

Test information

Q 12 questions

Time 15 minutes

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