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TOEFL reading test 11 with answers

The Cambrian Explosion

The geologic timescale is marked by significant geologic and biological events, including the origin of Earth about 4.6 billion years ago, the origin of life about 3.5 billion years ago, the origin of eukaryotic life-forms (living things that have cells with true nuclei) about 1.5 billion years ago, and the origin of animals about 0.6 billion years ago. The last event marks the beginning of the Cambrian period. Animals originated relativelylate in the history of Earth—in only the last 10 percent of Earth’s history. During a geologically brief 100-million-year period, all modern animal groups (along with other animals that are now extinct) evolved. This rapid origin and diversificationof animals is often referred to as “the Cambrian explosion.”
Scientists have asked important questions about this explosionfor more than a century. Why did it occur so late in the history of Earth? The origin of multicellular forms of life seems a relatively simple step compared to the origin of life itself. Why does the fossil record not document the series of evolutionary changes during the evolution of animals? Why did animal life evolve so quickly? Paleontologists continue to search the fossil record for answers to these questions.
One interpretation regarding the absence of fossils during this important 100-million-year period is that early animals were soft bodied and simply did not fossilize. [■] Fossilization of soft-bodied animals is less likely than fossilization of hard-bodied animals, but it does occur. [■] Conditions that promote fossilization of soft-bodied animals include very rapid covering by sediments that create an environment that discourages decomposition. [■] In fact, fossil beds containing soft-bodied animals have been known for many years. [■]
The Ediacara fossil formation, which contains the oldest known animal fossils, consists exclusively of soft-bodied forms. Although named after a site in Australia, the Ediacara formation is worldwide in distribution and dates to Precambrian times. This 700-million-year-old formation gives few clues to the origins of modern animals, however, because paleontologists believe it represents an evolutionary experiment that failed. It contains no ancestors of modern animal groups.
A slightly younger fossil formation containing animal remains is the Tommotian formation, named after a locale in Russia. It dates to the very early Cambrian period, and it also contains only soft-bodied forms. At one time, the animals present in these fossil beds were assigned to various modern animal groups, but most paleontologists now agree that all Tommotian fossils represent unique body forms that arose in the early Cambrian period and disappeared before the end of the period, leaving no descendants in modern animal groups.
A third fossil formation containing both soft-bodied and hard-bodied animals provides evidence of the result of the Cambrian explosion. This fossil formation, called the Burgess Shale, is in Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains of British Columbia. Shortly after the Cambrian explosion, mud slides rapidly buried thousands of marine animals under conditions that favored fossilization. These fossil beds provide evidence of about 32 modern animal groups, plus about 20 other animal body forms that are so different from any modern animals that they cannot be assigned to any one of the modern groups. These unassignable animals include a large swimming predator called Anomalocarisand a soft-bodied animal called Wiwaxia, which ate detritus or algae. The Burgess Shale formation also has fossils of many extinct representatives of modern animal groups. For example, a well-known Burgess Shale animal called Sidneyiais a representative of a previously unknown group of arthropods (a category of animals that includes insects, spiders, mites, and crabs).
Fossil formations like the Burgess Shale show that evolution cannot always be thought of as a slow progression. The Cambrian explosion involved rapid evolutionary diversification, followed by the extinction of many unique animals. Why was this evolution so rapid? No one really knows. Many zoologists believe that it was because so many ecological niches were available with virtually no competition from existing species. Will zoologists ever know the evolutionary sequences in the Cambrian explosion? Perhaps another ancient fossil bed of soft-bodied animals from 600-million-year-old seas is awaiting discovery.
Questions:

1. The word “significant” in the passage is closest in meaning to
A. numerous
B. important
C. unexplained
D. sudden
2. The word “relatively” in the passage is closest in meaning to
A. surprisingly
B. collectively
C. comparatively
D. characteristically
3. The word “diversification” in the passage is closest in meaning to
A. emergence of many varieties
B. steady decline in number
C. gradual increase in body size
D. sudden disappearance
4. The period discussed in the passage is referred to as an “explosion” because it
A. occurred 0.6 billion years ago, late in Earth’s history
B. was characterized by the unusually fast evolution of many new life-forms
C. was characterized by widespread animal extinction
D. was characterized by violent volcanic eruptions
5. According to Paragraph2, which of the following is NOT a question that paleontologists asked about the Cambrian explosion?
A. Why was the origin of life a simple step in Earth’s history?
B. Why did it take so long for multicellular organisms to develop?
C. Why did animal life evolve so rapidly?
D. Why does the fossil record lack evidence of animal evolution during that time?
6. Which of the following best describes the relationship between paragraph 2 and paragraph 3?
A. Paragraph 2 puts forward several scientific claims, one of which is rejected in paragraph 3.
B. Paragraph 2 poses several questions, and paragraph 3 offers a possible answer to one of them.
C. Paragraph 2 presents outdated traditional views, while paragraph 3 presents the current scientific conclusions.
D. Paragraph 2 introduces a generalization that is illustrated by specific examples in paragraph 3.
7. The word “promote” in the passage is closest in meaning to
A. complicate
B. prevent
C. encourage
D. affect
8. Which of the following is NOT mentioned in paragraph 4 as being true of the Ediacara formation?
A. It contains fossils that date back to the Precambrian period.
B. It contains only soft-bodied animal fossils.
C. It is located on a single site in Australia.
D. It does not contain any fossils of the ancestors of modern animals.
9. Which of the sentences below best expresses the essential information in the highlighted sentence in the passage? Incorrect choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information.
A. The animals found in the Tommotian fossil bed were once thought to belong to a variety of modern animal groups, but now they are thought to have descended from a single group.
B. Animals in the Tommotian fossil beds were initially assigned to modern animal groups but are now thought to belong to groups that emerged and died out during the Cambrian period.
C. Though at first they thought otherwise, paleontologists now agree that the animals in the Tommotian have body forms from which modern animals have descended.
D. It is unclear whether the Tommotian fossils from the early Cambrian period represent unique body forms or whether they should be assigned to various modern animal groups.
10. Why does the author mention “Anomalocaris” and “Wiwaxia”?
A. To contrast predators with animals that eat plants such as algae
B. To question the effects of rapid mud slides on fossilization
C. To suggest that much is still unknown about animals found in the Burgess Shale
D. To provide examples of fossils that cannot be assigned to a modern animal group
11. “Sidneyia” is an example of
A. a relative of Anomalocaris and Wiwaxia
B. a previously unknown Burgess Shale animal
C. an extinct member of a currently existing category of animals
D. an animal that cannot be assigned to any modern animal group
12. What can be inferred from paragraph 7 about why the Cambrian explosion is so unusual?
A. It generated new ecological niches through the extinction of many unique animals.
B. It was a period of rapid evolution, and evolution is often thought of as a slow process.
C. It is a period whose evolutionary sequences are clearly marked.
D. It generated a very large number of ancient fossil beds containing soft-bodied animals.
13. Look at the four squares [■] that indicate where the following sentence could be added to the passage.Where could the sentence best fit?
     It is relatively rare because the fossilization of soft-bodied animals requires a special                     environment.
14. Directions: An introductory sentence for a brief summary of the passage is provided below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer choices that express the most important ideas in the passage. Some answer choices do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that are not presented in the passage or are minor ideas in the passage. This question is worth 2 points. The term “Cambrian explosion” refers to the geologically brief period during which all modern animal groups evolved.
A. Little is known about the stages of evolution during the Cambrian period, in part because early animals were soft bodied and could fossilize only under particular conditions.
B. While animal fossils from before the Cambrian explosion have no modern descendants, many animals that evolved during the Cambrian explosion can be assigned to modern groups.
C. The Cambrian period is significant because it marks the emergence of eukaryotic life-forms organisms that have cells with true nuclei.
D. The Ediacara fossil formation provides the most information about the Cambrian explosion, while the earlier, Tommotian and Burgess Shale formations give clues about Precambrian evolution.
E. Zoologists are awaiting the discovery of a 600-million-year-old fossil formation in order to be able to form a theory of how animal evolution progressed.
F. Although the reasons for the rapid evolution of animals during the Cambrian period are not known, one proposed explanation is an abundance of niches with a lack of competitors.


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Answers:
1.B, 2.C, 3.A, 4.B, 5.A, 6.B, 7.C, 8.C, 9.B, 10.D, 11.C, 12.B, 13.B, 14.ABF

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