IELTS® Academic Reading Practice 29

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Senses of Whales

Some of the senses that we and other terrestrial mammals take for granted are either reduced, absent, or fail to function well in cetaceans, a group of aquatic mammals which include whales. For example, it appears from their brain structure that toothed species are unable to smell. Baleen species, on the other hand, appear to have some related brain structures, but it is not known whether these are functional. It has been speculated that, as the blowholes evolved and migrated to the top of the head, the neural pathways serving a sense of smell may nearly all have been sacrificed. Similarly, although at least some cetaceans have taste buds, the nerves which serve this function are either underdeveloped or rudimentary.

The cetaceans’ sense of touch has also sometimes been described as weak, but this view is probably mistaken. Trainers of captive dolphins and small whales often remark on their animals’ responsiveness to being touched or rubbed, and both captive and free-ranging cetacean individuals of all species (particularly adults and calves, or members of the same subgroup) appear to make frequent contact. This contact may help to maintain order within a group, and stroking or touching are part of the courtship ritual in most species. The area around the blowhole is also particularly sensitive and captive animals often react very strongly to being touched there.

Vision in cetaceans has developed to be more sensitive in different species. When baleen whale species studied in close quarters underwater, specifically a grey whale calf in captivity for a year, and free-range right whales and humpback whales studied and filmed off Argentina and Hawaii, have obviously tracked objects with vision underwater, and they can apparently see moderately well both in water and in the air. However, the position of the eyes in baleen whale restricts the field of vision to the point that they probably do not have the ability to see stereoscopically like humans do, using both eyes.

On the other hand, the position of the eyes in most dolphins and porpoises suggests that they have stereoscopic vision forward and downward. Eye position in freshwater dolphins, who often swim on their side or upside down while feeding, suggests that what vision they have is stereoscopic forward and upward. By comparison, the bottlenose dolphin has extremely keen vision in water. Judging from the way it watches and tracks airborne flying fish, it can apparently see fairly well through the surface of the water as well. And although preliminary experimental evidence suggests that their in-air vision is poor, the accuracy with which dolphins leap high to take small fish out of a trainer’s hand provides anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

Such variation can no doubt be explained with reference to the habitats in which individual species have developed. For example, vision is obviously more useful to species inhabiting clear open waters than to those living in murky rivers and flooded plains. Some dolphins, such as the Chinese baiji, for instance, appear to have very limited vision, and the South asian river dolphins are blind, their eyes reduced to slits that probably allow them to sense only the direction and intensity of light.

Although the senses of taste and smell appear to have deteriorated, and vision in water appears to be uncertain, such weaknesses are more than compensated for by cetaceans’ well-developed acoustic sense. Most species are highly vocal, although they vary in the range of sounds they produce, and many forage for food using echolocation. Large baleen whales primarily use lower frequencies and are often limited in how many sounds they use. Notable exceptions are the nearly song-like choruses of bowhead whales in summer and the complex, haunting utterances of the humpback whales. Toothed species, in general, employ more of the frequency spectrum, and produce a wider variety of sounds than baleen species (though the sperm whale apparently produces a monotonous series of high-energy clicks and little else). Some of the more complicated sounds are clearly communicative, although what role they may play in the social life and ‘culture’ of cetaceans has been more the subject of wild speculation than of solid science.




This reading practice simulates one part of the IELTS Academic Reading test. You should spend about twenty minutes on it. Read the passage and answer questions 15-27.
Questions 15-22
Complete each sentence with the correct ending A-M from the box below.

Write the correct letter A-M in boxes 15-22 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.

  1. likely can’t see with both eyes
  2. appear to have lost the sense of smell
  3. likely nearly blind
  4. are vocal with good hearing
  5. are very sensitive to touch
  6. likely can see extremely well in water
  7. have moderate vision both in water and in air
  8. are likely blind
  9. are a group of aquatic mammals
  10. likely can see moderately well in water only
  11. have limited acoustic sense.
  12. has extremely keen vision in air
  13. are very sensitive to light

15. Toothed species of cetaceans

16. Baleen species of cetaceans

17. Cetaceans

18. The blowhole area

19. Humpback whales

20. Bottlenose dolphins

21. Chinese baiji

22. Most species of cetaceans

Questions 23-27
Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage? In boxes 23-27 on your answer sheet, write

YES   if the statement reflects the claims of the writer
NO   if the statement contradicts the claims of the writer
NOT GIVEN   if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

23. It is certain that baleen species are unable to smell.

24. Early experimental evidence indicates that the bottlenose dolphin has good in-air vision.

25. The habitat of clear waters is related to good visual ability.

26. Most large baleens send low-frequency underwater calls to one another.

27. Humpback whales usually hunt in summer.




Answer Sheet
1
N/A
2
N/A
3
N/A
4
N/A
5
N/A
6
N/A
7
N/A
8
N/A
9
N/A
10
N/A
11
N/A
12
N/A
13
N/A
14
N/A
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
N/A
29
N/A
30
N/A
31
N/A
32
N/A
33
N/A
34
N/A
35
N/A
36
N/A
37
N/A
38
N/A
39
N/A
40
N/A


Reading Passage Vocabulary
Senses of Whales


Some of the senses that we and other terrestrial mammals take for granted are either reduced, absent, or fail to function well in cetaceans, a group of aquatic mammals which include whales. For example, it appears from their brain structure that toothed species are unable to smell. Baleen species, on the other hand, appear to have some related brain structures, but it is not known whether these are functional. It has been speculated that, as the blowholes evolved and migrated to the top of the head, the neural pathways serving a sense of smell may nearly all have been sacrificed. Similarly, although at least some cetaceans have taste buds, the nerves which serve this function are either underdeveloped or rudimentary.

The cetaceans’ sense of touch has also sometimes been described as weak, but this view is probably mistaken. Trainers of captive dolphins and small whales often remark on their animals’ responsiveness to being touched or rubbed, and both captive and free-ranging cetacean individuals of all species (particularly adults and calves, or members of the same subgroup) appear to make frequent contact. This contact may help to maintain order within a group, and stroking or touching are part of the courtship ritual in most species. The area around the blowhole is also particularly sensitive and captive animals often react very strongly to being touched there.

Vision in cetaceans has developed to be more sensitive in different species. When baleen whale species studied in close quarters underwater, specifically a grey whale calf in captivity for a year, and free-range right whales and humpback whales studied and filmed off Argentina and Hawaii, have obviously tracked objects with vision underwater, and they can apparently see moderately well both in water and in the air. However, the position of the eyes in baleen whale restricts the field of vision to the point that they probably do not have the ability to see stereoscopically like humans do, using both eyes.

On the other hand, the position of the eyes in most dolphins and porpoises suggests that they have stereoscopic vision forward and downward. Eye position in freshwater dolphins, who often swim on their side or upside down while feeding, suggests that what vision they have is stereoscopic forward and upward. By comparison, the bottlenose dolphin has extremely keen vision in water. Judging from the way it watches and tracks airborne flying fish, it can apparently see fairly well through the surface of the water as well. And although preliminary experimental evidence suggests that their in-air vision is poor, the accuracy with which dolphins leap high to take small fish out of a trainer’s hand provides anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

Such variation can no doubt be explained with reference to the habitats in which individual species have developed. For example, vision is obviously more useful to species inhabiting clear open waters than to those living in murky rivers and flooded plains. Some dolphins, such as the Chinese baiji, for instance, appear to have very limited vision, and the South asian river dolphins are blind, their eyes reduced to slits that probably allow them to sense only the direction and intensity of light.

Although the senses of taste and smell appear to have deteriorated, and vision in water appears to be uncertain, such weaknesses are more than compensated for by cetaceans’ well-developed acoustic sense. Most species are highly vocal, although they vary in the range of sounds they produce, and many forage for food using echolocation. Large baleen whales primarily use lower frequencies and are often limited in how many sounds they use. Notable exceptions are the nearly song-like choruses of bowhead whales in summer and the complex, haunting utterances of the humpback whales. Toothed species, in general, employ more of the frequency spectrum, and produce a wider variety of sounds than baleen species (though the sperm whale apparently produces a monotonous series of high-energy clicks and little else). Some of the more complicated sounds are clearly communicative, although what role they may play in the social life and ‘culture’ of cetaceans has been more the subject of wild speculation than of solid science.

 
IELTS Academic Reading Tips for Success
These are general tips that will appear on all reading questions.

Tips to improve your reading speed
To get a high score on the IELTS reading section, you need to have a fast reading speed. To have a fast reading speed, you need to improve your vocabulary and practice dissecting sentences. One strategy to dissect a sentence is to look for the subject and verb of the sentence. Finding the subject and verb will help you better understand the main idea of said sentence. Keep in mind, a common feature of a IELTS reading passage is to join strings of ideas to form long compound sentences. This produces large chunks that students have a hard time absorbing. Do not get overwhelmed by its length, just look for the subject and verb, the rest of the ideas will flow.


Keep in mind, having a slow reading speed makes skimming or scanning a reading passage more difficult. The process of quickly skimming through a reading passage for specific keywords or main ideas is a requirement for you to employ successful reading strategies to improve your IELTS reading score. In other words, skimming and scanning are critical skills to ensure you complete all questions in the allotted time frame.
IELTS Reading Strategies
Once you can read and comprehend a passage with a rate of, at least, 220 words per minute, you'll be ready to start implementing our strategies. All too often, students spend too much time reading the passages and not enough time answering the questions. Here is a step by step guide for tackling the reading section.

  1. Step 1: Read questions first

    One of the most common mistakes that candidates make when approaching the reading exam is reading every single word of the passages. Although you can practice for the exam by reading for pleasure, "reading blindly" (reading without any sense of what the questions will ask) will not do you any favors in the exam. Instead, it will hurt your chances for effectively managing your time and getting the best score.

    The main reason to read the questions first is because the type of question may determine what you read in the passage or how you read it. For example, some question types will call for the "skimming" technique, while others may call for the "scanning" technique.

    It is important to answer a set of questions that are of the same question type. You'll need to determine which question type you want to tackle first. A good strategy would be to start with the easier question type and move on to more difficult question types later. The Easiest question types are the ones where you spend less time reading. For example, the Matching Heading question type is an easier one because you only need to find the heading that best describes the main idea of a paragraph. An example of a difficult question type would be Identifying Information. For this question type, you'll need to read each paragraph to find out if each statement is TRUE, FALSE, or NOT GIVEN according to the passage.

    Here is a table that lists the difficulty levels for each question type. Use this table as a reference when choosing which question type you want to tackle first.


    Difficulty level Question Type
    Easy Sentence Completion
    Short answer
    Medium Matching Features
    Multiple choice
    Matching Headings
    Summary, Table, Flow-Chart Completion
    Difficult Matching Sentence Endings
    Matching Information
    Identifying Information (TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN)
    Identifying Viewer's claims (YES/NO/NOT GIVEN)

  2. Step 2: Read for an objective

    After you've read the questions for the passage, you will be able to read for an objective. What does this mean? For example, if you come across a question that includes the year "1896", you can make a note of when this year comes up in the text, using it to answer the question later on. There are two reading techniques that will help you stay on track with reading for an objective. The first one, skimming, is best defined as reading fast in order to get the "gist", or general idea, or a passage. With this technique, you are not stopping for any unfamiliar words or looking for specific details. The second technique, scanning, is best defined as reading for specific information. With this technique, you are not reading for the overall gist, but rather, specific information. Notice how each of these techniques has a specific objective in mind. This will help you find information more quickly.

  3. Step 3: Take notes

    As you're reading for an objective, you should also be making notes on the margins of the passage, placing stars next to key information, or underlining things that you believe will help you answer the various questions. This will make it easier for you to check back when you are asked certain things in the questions. Choose whichever note-taking system is right for you - just make sure you do it!

  4. Step 4: Answer wisely

    After you've read the questions, read the passage, and have taken any appropriate notes, you you should have located the part of the text where you where you need to read carefully. Then just read carefully and think critically to determine the correct answer.

IELTS Reading Question Types
 
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