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CAT Critical Reasoning Practice question with Solution 36

The teeth of some mammals show growth rings that result from the constant depositing of layers of cementum as opaque bands in summer and translucent bands in winter. Cross sections of pigs teeth found in an excavated Stone Age trash pit revealed bands of remarkably constant width except that the band deposited last, which was invariably translucent, was only about half the normal width.

The statements above most strongly support the conclusion that the animals died

[A]. in an unusually early winter
[B]. at roughly the same age
[C]. roughly in midwinter
[D]. in a natural catastrophe
[E]. from starvation
Answer: C

The last band on all the pigs’ teeth was translucent. That means these last bands were deposited in the winter. But these bands are only half the normal width; since the depositing of cementum is supposed to be “constant,” this means that the bands were deposited in only half the normal time. In other words, the pigs stopped depositing cementum about half-way through the winter. According to what we’ve been told, we would expect a pig to continue depositing cementum at a constant rate as long as it’s alive, so we can reasonably infer (C), that the pigs died about half-way through the winter.

(A) conflicts with the evidence. If the pigs had died in an unusually early winter, then the previous summer would have to have been unusually short. If the previous summer had been unusually short, then the opaque band deposited at that time would have to have been unusually narrow. Since all the bands other than the last were of constant width, the previous summer was not unusually short. In turn, this implies that the fatal winter was not unusually early.

(B) We just don’t know the ages of the pigs at the time of their death; we could only calculate their ages if we’d been told the total number of rings in their teeth. As it is, we have no idea.

(D) misinterprets the evidence to suggest that all the pigs died at the exact same time, rather than that they all died at about the same time of year. In other words, (D) seems to suggest that all the pigs bought the farm mid-way through the same winter, but this need not be the case.

(E) goes beyond the evidence. Starvation is one of the things that could have killed the pigs in the winter, but we don’t know that it did; maybe they froze to death or they’re more vulnerable to predators in the snow.

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