June 2013 LSAT, Reading Comprehension, passage 4 summary

Crowdsourcing the June 2013 LSAT:  June 2013 LSAT Explanation Central | About this project Call me a nerd, but I'm actually halfway intrigued by the first paragraph. As far as the LSAT goes, this is about as good as it gets... there's a mystery here! The dodo went extinct three centuries ago. When the dodo went, did it take a species of tree (Calvaria major) with it? Ecologist Stanley Temple seems to think so. Let's check out the second paragraph and see what more we can learn.

Wow, yeah! In the second paragraph we get the causal mechanism by which the dodo might have killed off a species of tree. Basically, the dodo used to eat the trees' seeds all the time. To counteract the rough treatment doled out by the dodo's digestive system, the tree evolves a thick covering for its seeds. But then, when the dodo dies off, the trees still have seeds with these incredibly thick coverings... which, without dodo digestion, trap the seed inside, preventing germination! Sorry, I'm excited here. I like nature shows. Compared to the usual RC passage about 18th-Century poetry, this one is heaven.

The third paragraph talks about ways that Temple tried to validate his hypothesis. Of course he couldn't use dodos for testing, since they were extinct. So Temple did some "estimates" of the pressures that must have been present inside a dodo's gizzard, and compared this to crush tests on the Calvaria major pits. He also used turkeys as a stand-in for the dodo, and was able to sprout seeds that had made it through turkey digestion. But the author gives some clues here that suggest Temple might have actually been wrong in his dodo-Calvaria link. In line 33, the author says "semblance of rigor." This suggests that the author doesn't view the studies as actually rigorous. And in line 42, the author writes "which he saw as vindicating his hypothesis." Hmm... this sounds like the author thinks Temple might have been fooling himself. As I move toward the fourth paragraph, I'm expecting the author to say "actually, Temple was wrong and the extinction of the dodo had nothing to do with the decline of the Calvaria. That would be a bummer, because I was looking forward to telling people this story at cocktail parties! Oh well, maybe I'll just tell the story anyway... nobody will know the difference, right?

Yep, here we go. Line 46: "Strongly challenged by leading specialists." Line 50: "hundreds [of Calvaria], many far younger than three centuries." (So Calvaria has been reproducing since the dodo went extinct after all.) Line 57: "number [of seeds that germinate] is still probably sufficient to keep this species from becoming extinct." And finally, in the last couple lines of the passage, we find out about "other factors" like disease and nonindigenous animals that could have caused the decline in Calvaria.

I'm not gonna lie... I'm a bit disappointed. I was rooting for the dodo-Calvaria link, because it would have been an interesting story. Now I'm left with no likely connection between those two things, and the far more mundane "disease and nonindigenous animals" cause for Calvaria's decline. Boring! Oh well, at least I was engaged for the entire story. On to the questions.

 

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--nathan

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Crowdsourcing the June 2013 LSAT:  June 2013 LSAT Explanation Central | About this project