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Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

2014, High School Biology

  Question 12: Open-Response  
The Elk Mortality graph shows changes in elk mortality with wolves present and without wolves present.
  1. Summarize what the Elk Mortality graph shows about elk mortality from November to April with wolves present and without wolves present.
Based on these data, scientists can estimate the size of scavenger populations through the winter. The graph below shows the size of a scavenger population with wolves present and without wolves present.
The title of the graph is Scavenger Population.  The x-axis label is Month with November through April listed. The y-axis label is Number of Scavengers and ranges from zero to seven hundred fifty. The graph has two lines, one showing elk mortality with wolves and the other showing elk mortality without wolves.  Both lines start in November with approximately four hundred fifty scavengers. The line showing the scavenger population with wolves decreases slightly to a low of approximately four hundred twenty scavengers in February, increases to four hundred forty scavengers in March, and then decreases to four hundred thirty scavengers in April. The line showing the scavenger population without wolves starts at approximately four hundred fifty scavengers in November and decreases gradually to approximately two hundred ninety scavengers in March. After March the line decreases sharply to one hundred fifty scavengers in April.
  1. Explain the cause of these data patterns for the scavenger population.
  2. Describe one way that the wolves’ effect on the elk population could benefit organisms other than scavengers in the ecosystem.

Scoring Guide and Sample Student Work
Select a score point in the table below to view the sample student response.

ScoreDescription
4 The response demonstrates a thorough understanding of changes in population size and biodiversity, and the factors that cause these changes. The response clearly summarizes what the graph shows about elk mortality and clearly explains the cause of the data patterns for the scavenger population. The response also clearly describes how the wolves’ effect on the elk could benefit other organisms.
4
3 The response demonstrates general understanding of changes in population size and biodiversity, and the factors that cause these changes.
2 The response demonstrates a limited understanding of changes in population size and biodiversity, and the factors that cause these changes.
1 The response demonstrates a minimal understanding of changes in population size and biodiversity, and the factors that cause these changes.
0 The response is incorrect or contains some correct work that is irrelevant to the skill or concept being measured.

Note: There are 2 sample student responses for Score Point 4.

High School Biology

Question 12: Ecology
Question 23: Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Question 32: Evolution and Biodiversity
Question 44: Genetics
Question 45: Anatomy and Physiology

Return to the MCAS 2014 Student Work Directory



Last Updated: January 25, 2017
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