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Mass Extinctions  

2013-02-19 17:09:45|  分类: 【英语资料】 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Mass Extinctions

Cases in which many species become extinct within a geologically short interval of time are called mass extinctions. There was one such event at the end of the Cretaceous period (around 70 million years ago). There was another, even larger, mass extinction at the end of the Permian period (around 250 million years ago). The Permian event has attracted much less attention than other mass extinctions because mostly unfamiliar species perished at that time.

 

The fossil record shows at least five mass extinctions in which many families of marine organisms died out. The rates of extinction happening today are as great as the rates during these mass extinctions. Many scientists have therefore concluded that a sixth great mass extinction is currently in progress.

 

What could cause such high rates of extinction? There are several hypotheses, including warming or cooling of Earth, changes in seasonal fluctuations or ocean currents, and changing positions of the continents. Biological hypotheses include ecological changes brought about by the evolution of cooperation between insects and flowering plants or of bottom-feeding predators in the oceans. Some of the proposed mechanisms required a very brief period during which all extinctions suddenly took place; other mechanisms would be more likely to have taken place more gradually, over an extended period, or at different times on different continents. Some hypotheses fail to account for simultaneous extinctions on land and in the seas. Each mass extinction may have had a different cause. Evidence points to hunting by humans and habitat destruction as the likely causes for the current mass extinction.

 

American paleontologists David Raup and John Sepkoski, who have studied extinction rates in a number of fossil groups, suggest that episodes of increased extinction have recurred periodically, approximately every 26 million years since the mid-Cretaceous period. The late Cretaceous extinction of the dinosaurs and ammonoids was just one of the more drastic in a whole series of such recurrent extinction episodes. The possibility that mass extinctions may recur periodically has given rise to such hypotheses as that of a companion star with a long-period orbit deflecting other bodies from their normal orbits, making some of them fall to Earth as meteors and causing widespread devastation upon impact.

 

Of the various hypotheses attempting to account for the late Cretaceous extinctions, the one that has attracted the most attention in recent years is the asteroid-impact hypothesis first suggested by Luis and Walter Alvarez. According to this hypothesis, Earth collided with an asteroid with an estimated diameter of 10 kilometers, or with several asteroids, the combined mass of which was comparable. The force of collision spewed large amounts of debris into the atmosphere, darkening the skies for several years before the finer particles settled. The reduced level of photosynthesis led to a massive decline in plant life of all kinds, and this caused massive starvation first of herbivores and subsequently of carnivores. The mass extinction would have occurred very suddenly under this hypothesis.

 

One interesting test of the Alvarez hypothesis is based on the presence of the rare-earth element iridium (Ir). Earth’s crust contains very little of this element, but most asteroids contain a lot more. Debris thrown into the atmosphere by an asteroid collision would presumably contain large amounts of iridium, and atmospheric currents would carry this material all over the globe. A search of sedimentary deposits that span the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods shows that there is a dramatic increase in the abundance of iridium briefly and precisely at this boundary. This iridium anomaly offers strong support for the Alvarez hypothesis even though no asteroid itself has ever been recovered.

 

An asteroid of this size would be expected to leave an immense crater, even if the asteroid itself was disintegrated by the impact. The intense heat of the impact would produce heat-shocked quartz in many types of rock. Also, large blocks thrown aside by the impact would form secondary craters surrounding the main crater. To date, several such secondary craters have been found along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and heat-shocked quartz has been found both in Mexico and in Haiti. A location called Chicxulub, along the Yucatan coast, has been suggested as the primary impact site.

 

Paragraph 1: Cases in which many species become extinct within a geologically short interval of time are called mass extinctions. There was one such event at the end of the Cretaceous period (around 70 million years ago). There was another, even larger, mass extinction at the end of the Permian period (around 250 million years ago). The Permian event has attracted much less attention than other mass extinctions because mostly unfamiliar species perished at that time.

 

1. Paragraph 1 supports which of the following statements about mass extinctions?3

They take place over a period of 70 million years.

They began during the Cretaceous period.

They eliminate many animal species that exist at the time they occur.

They occur every 250 million years.

 

Paragraph 2: The fossil record shows at least five mass extinctions in which many families of marine organisms died out. The rates of extinction happening today are as great as the rates during these mass extinctions. Many scientists have therefore concluded that a sixth great mass extinction is currently in progress.

 

 2. According to paragraph 2, scientists base their belief that a mass extinction is going on at present on which of the following?1

The speed with which mass extinctions are happening today is similar to the speed of past extinctions.

The number of species that have died out since the last extinction event is extremely large.

Mass extinctions occur with regularity and it is time for another one.

Fossil records of many marine species have disappeared.

 

Paragraph 3: What could cause such high rates of extinction? There are several hypotheses, including warming or cooling of Earth, changes in seasonal fluctuations or ocean currents, and changing positions of the continents. Biological hypotheses include ecological changes brought about by the evolution of cooperation between insects and flowering plants or of bottom-feeding predators in the oceans. Some of the proposed mechanisms required a very brief period during which all extinctions suddenly took place; other mechanisms would be more likely to have taken place more gradually, over an extended period, or at different times on different continents. Some hypotheses fail to account for simultaneous extinctions on land and in the seas. Each mass extinction may have had a different cause. Evidence points to hunting by humans and habitat destruction as the likely causes for the current mass extinction.

  

 3. The word extended in the passage is closest in meaning to4

specific

unlimited

reasonable

long

 

4. According to paragraph 3, each of the following has been proposed as a possible cause of mass extinctions EXCEPT (3)

habitat destruction

continental movement

fierce interspecies competition

changes in Earth's temperature

 

1.       Paragraph 3 supports which of the following ideas about mass extinctions?(4)

Scientists know the exact causes of most mass extinctions.

Mass extinctions are unlikely to happen again in the future.

Insects, flowering plants, and bottom-feeding predators in the oceans tend to be the first organisms to disappear during episodes of mass extinctions.

Some mass extinctions occurred on land and in the seas at the same time.

 

Paragraph 4: American paleontologists David Raup and John Sepkoski, who have studied extinction rates in a number of fossil groups, suggest that episodes of increased extinction have recurred periodically, approximately every 26 million years since the mid-Cretaceous period. The late Cretaceous extinction of the dinosaurs and ammonoids was just one of the more drastic in a whole series of such recurrent extinction episodes. The possibility that mass extinctions may recur periodically has given rise to such hypotheses as that of a companion star with a long-period orbit deflecting other bodies from their normal orbits, making some of them fall to Earth as meteors and causing widespread devastation upon impact.

 

6. 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. (1)

Based on their studies of extinction rates of numerous fossil groups, paleontologists David Raup and John Sepkoski have determined that mass extinctions occur about every 26 million years.

David Raup and John Sepkoski studied extinction rates of numerous fossil groups and suggest that mass extinctions during the Cretaceous period continued for 26 million years.

Studies that paleontologists David Raup and John Sepkoski conducted of various fossil groups have revealed that extinction rates have increased over the past 26 million years.

The studies conducted by paleontologists David Raup and John Sepkoski of the fossil remains of species suggest that the extinction rate of species started to increase by the middle of the Cretaceous period.

 

7. According to paragraph 4, what aspect of extinction episodes does the companion-star hypothesis supposedly clarify?2

Their location

Their frequency

Their duration

Their severity

 

Paragraph 5: Of the various hypotheses attempting to account for the late Cretaceous extinctions, the one that has attracted the most attention in recent years is the asteroid-impact hypothesis first suggested by Luis and Walter Alvarez. According to this hypothesis, Earth collided with an asteroid with an estimated diameter of 10 kilometers, or with several asteroids, the combined mass of which was comparable. The force of collision spewed large amounts of debris into the atmosphere, darkening the skies for several years before the finer particles settled. The reduced level of photosynthesis led to a massive decline in plant life of all kinds, and this caused massive starvation first of herbivores and subsequently of carnivores. The mass extinction would have occurred very suddenly under this hypothesis.

 

8. The phrase account for in the passage is closest in meaning to (3)

describe

challenge

explain

test

 

Paragraph 6: One interesting test of the Alvarez hypothesis is based on the presence of the rare-earth element iridium (Ir). Earth’s crust contains very little of this element, but most asteroids contain a lot more. Debris thrown into the atmosphere by an asteroid collision would presumably contain large amounts of iridium, and atmospheric currents would carry this material all over the globe. A search of sedimentary deposits that span the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods shows that there is a dramatic increase in the abundance of iridium briefly and precisely at this boundary. This iridium anomaly offers strong support for the Alvarez hypothesis even though no asteroid itself has ever been recovered.

 

9. According to paragraph 6, what made iridium a useful test of the Alvarez hypothesis? (2)

Its occurrence in a few locations on Earth against several locations on other planets

Its occurrence in limited quantities on Earth against its abundance in asteroids

Its ability to remain solid at extremely high temperatures

Its ease of detection even in very small amounts

 

 10. In stating that no asteroid itself has ever been recovered, the author emphasizes which of the following?1

The importance of the indirect evidence for a large asteroid

The fact that no evidence supports the asteroid?impact hypothesis

The reason many researchers reject the Alvarez hypothesis

The responsibility of scientists for not making the effort to discover the asteroid itself

 

 

Paragraph 7: An asteroid of this size would be expected to leave an immense crater, even if the asteroid itself was disintegrated by the impact. The intense heat of the impact would produce heat-shocked quartz in many types of rock. Also, large blocks thrown aside by the impact would form secondary craters surrounding the main crater. To date, several such secondary craters have been found along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and heat-shocked quartz has been found both in Mexico and in Haiti. A location called Chicxulub, along the Yucatan coast, has been suggested as the primary impact site.

 

11. The word intense in the passage is closest in meaning to 4

sudden

unusual

immediate

extreme

 

 

12. What is the purpose of paragraph 7 in the passage? 2

It proposes a decisive new test of the Alvarez hypothesis.

It presents additional supporting evidence for the Alvarez hypothesis.

It explains why evidence relating to the Alvarez hypothesis is hard to find.

It shows how recent evidence has raised doubts about the Alvarez hypothesis.

 

Paragraph 1: Cases in which many species become extinct within a geologically short interval of time are called mass extinctions. There was one such event at the end of the Cretaceous period (around 70 million years ago). There was another, even larger, mass extinction at the end of the Permian period (around 250 million years ago). The Permian event has attracted much less attention than other mass extinctions because mostly unfamiliar species perished at that time.

 

13. Look at the four squares [] that indicate where the following sentence could be added to the passage.

In general, it is believed that these two extinctions resulted from drastic environmental changes that followed meteorite impacts or massive volcanic eruptions.

Where would the sentence best fit?4

 

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 sentences 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.

There have been many attempts to explain the causes of mass extinctions.

Asteroid impacts, evolutionary…

Researchers have observed…

The unusual distribution…

Answer Choices

Asteroid impacts, evolutionary developments, and changes in Earth's climate and in the positions of the continents have all been proposed as possible causes of mass extinctions.

Researchers have observed 26-million-year cycles in extinction rates of a number of fossil groups that could all be attributed to the same cause.

According to the Alvarez hypothesis, much of the iridium originally present on Earth was thrown into the atmosphere as a result of an asteroid impact that also caused a mass extinction.

The unusual distribution of iridium on Earth and the presence of craters and heat-shocked quartz are central to the theory that an asteroid impact caused the late Cretaceous event.

The collision between Earth and a large asteroid resulted in massive damage and generated enough heat to cause irreversible changes in Earth's atmosphere.

There was a particularly large mass extinction that occurred around 250 million years ago at the end of the Permian period, whose cause could not be determined.


 

 

参考答案:

1. 3

2. 1

3. 4

4. 3

5. 4

6. 1

7. 2

8.3

9. 2

10. 1

11. 4

12. 2

13. 4

14. Asteroid impacts, evolutionary…

Researchers have observed…

The unusual distribution…

 


 

  

参考译文:大规模物种灭绝

 

在短短的地质时间间隔内有许大量物种灭绝,这些现象就被称为大规模物种灭绝。在白垩纪时期后期(大约七千万年前)曾经发生过一次大规模物种灭绝。在二叠纪时期后期(大约两亿五千万年前)又发生过一次规模更大的大规模物种灭绝。由于当时消失的物种大部分是人们不熟悉的,人们对二叠纪时期的这次大规模物种灭绝的关注远远不如其他几次大规模物种灭绝。

 

化石记录显示,至少发生过五次大规模物种灭绝,造成了大批海洋生物物种灭绝。如今物种灭绝的机率和以往那五次大规模物种灭绝时期的几率一样高。因此许多科学家得出结论:第六次大规模物种灭绝即将到来。

 

是什么导致了如此高的物种灭绝率呢?有几种假说,包括:地球变暖或变冷;季节的变动或洋流的变化;大陆位置移动。生物假说包括:由昆虫与开花植物之间合作式进化或海洋底层肉食动物进化引起的生态变化;这些生物机制,有些在极短的时间内就会灭绝,而有些则很有可能经过长时期在不同时代或不同大陆缓慢地进行的。有些假说倾向于解释在陆地和海洋同时发生的物种灭绝。可能每次大规模物种灭绝都有不同的原因。但是证据指出,人类狩猎以及人类对栖息地地破坏很可能是当前大规模物种灭绝的原因。

 

美国古生物学家David Raup John Sepkoski 曾经在大量的化石群里面研究了物种灭绝的机率。他们指出,自从白垩纪时期中期以来,物种灭绝的增加大约每两千六百万年就会定期复发一次。白垩纪时期后期的恐龙和菊石(一种已灭绝的动物)的灭绝仅仅是一系列此类周期性物种灭绝中更为剧烈的一次。定期出现大灭绝的可能性引发了这样的假想:一颗具有长周期轨道的的伴星使其他天体从正常轨道偏离,导致其中一些天体变成流星掉落到地球,在撞击的时候造成大范围的破坏。

 

在各种试图解释白垩纪时期后期物种灭绝的假说中,近年来最受瞩目的是由Luis Walter Alvarez最先提出的小行星撞击假说。根据这个假说,地球与一个直径大约为10公里的小行星或者总体积与之相当的几个小行星碰撞。碰撞的力量把大量碎片喷射到大气中,在这些小颗粒沉淀之前能够把天空掩盖上好几年。减弱的光合作用会造成各种植物的生命大规模的下降。这首先会造成大规模的草食动物饿死,接着就是大规模肉食动物饿死。按照这种假说,大规模物种灭绝就会突然间发生。

 

Alvarez 假说的一个有趣的检验是基于稀土元素铱的存在。这种元素在地壳中的含量很少,但是在大多数小行星中的含量却多得多。小行星碰撞所放射到大气中的碎片可能会含有大量的铱元素,并且大气流会把这些物质带到全球各地。一个关于跨越白垩纪时期与第三纪时期的沉积物的搜索显示:在这两个时期的交接时期,铱元素的含量急剧增加。即使从没发现过撞击的小行星,铱元素异常却为Alvarez假说提供了有力支持。

按理说,若大一个小行星,即使受到冲击变得粉身碎骨也会留下一个巨大的陨石坑的。撞击所释放的极度高温让许多种岩石形成热冲击石英。撞击也会把一些大石块抛出去,在主要陨石坑周围形成次级陨石坑。迄今为止,人们已经在墨西哥尤卡坦半岛附近找到了一些此类次级陨石坑。并且还在海地和墨西哥找到了热冲击石英。尤卡坦沿海一个叫做Chicxulub的地方,曾被当做主要的撞击点。

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