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Question About Arctic Foxes

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Ok, so on a test I had to take there was a question that asked what caused an arctic fox to turn white/brown with the different seasons. The answer choices were the following:

A. food

B. habitat

C. gene

D. sunlight

I said that it was B because I thought the habitat was what caused the fox to develop the gene for changing fur. However, the correct answer was C, genes. Is this right?

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I do not know, but sunlight should be a part of the habitat thing I think. Japanese would keep their dogs on ice blocks so that their dogs would have thick fur, so I think the cold could cause them to change the color of fur in Arctic foxes. It could have genes that make the fox's fur white when exposed to cold, bleech might make it's hair turn white also.

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If it was written the same way you wrote it here, it's a badly worded question. Did you take it up with your teach/prof? Sometimes explaining your line of thinking will get them to change your grade, or at the very least improve the question for the next people who get stuck in their class!

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It is clearly C.

If I were to ask you what caused you to have red hair- it's the genes. Now, if you got old and your hair turned white, age is the cause. If you dyed it green, the dye was the cause.

Think of it this way. Say you took Vulpes vulpes (red fox) and dumped him in the arctic. Why WOULDN'T he turn white in the winter? He is exposed to the same food, habitat, and sunlight. So none of these are the factors that influence the arctic fox's colors.

Had the question read something akin to "What factors/selective pressures favored the fox's ability to turn white in the winter?" then the answer would be habitat. Selection is the not the CAUSE of traits, it simply weeds out the traits that do not help an organism survive. Mutations/genes CAUSE the traits.

(unless you're talking about a trait that is influenced by environmental factors, like short stature due to starvation as a child, or lobsters that lack certain pigments because the chemical precursors are not present in their diet, but that is clearly not what is going on here)

And, for the record, I teach High School Biology. This does not make me an expert, but I think that the question was worded fine. You teacher is probably trying to kill the misconception that "organisms change because of their environment" S/He would rather you understood it correctly "organisms change, then the environment determines which survive to have offspring"

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Explain please.

This is the basic concept of causation (in a biological context) or you can think of "cause and effect" (in a scientific context).

Your question: Ok, so on a test I had to take there was a question that asked what caused an arctic fox to turn white/brown with the different seasons. The answer choices were the following:

A. food

B. habitat

C. gene

D. sunlight

I said that it was B because I thought the habitat was what caused the fox to develop the gene for changing fur. However, the correct answer was C, genes. Is this right?

The question asked what caused (i.e., causation in a biological context) the effect (i.e., arctic fox to turn white/brown with the different seasons). At the cellular level, the DNA of the fox (i.e., genes) caused the color change but the genes were influenced by the environmental (what you refer to as habitat)...tough question. Good try... :)

So my question is: What biological process made the genes in this fox species? :)

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Thanks for the explanations :) . My teacher wasn't even here today, so he didn't go over the answers :wacko:

MrCrackerpants - I would say that natural selection would have made the genes. Right?

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It is clearly C.

If I were to ask you what caused you to have red hair- it's the genes. Now, if you got old and your hair turned white, age is the cause. If you dyed it green, the dye was the cause.

Think of it this way. Say you took Vulpes vulpes (red fox) and dumped him in the arctic. Why WOULDN'T he turn white in the winter? He is exposed to the same food, habitat, and sunlight. So none of these are the factors that influence the arctic fox's colors.

Had the question read something akin to "What factors/selective pressures favored the fox's ability to turn white in the winter?" then the answer would be habitat. Selection is the not the CAUSE of traits, it simply weeds out the traits that do not help an organism survive. Mutations/genes CAUSE the traits.

(unless you're talking about a trait that is influenced by environmental factors, like short stature due to starvation as a child, or lobsters that lack certain pigments because the chemical precursors are not present in their diet, but that is clearly not what is going on here)

And, for the record, I teach High School Biology. This does not make me an expert, but I think that the question was worded fine. You teacher is probably trying to kill the misconception that "organisms change because of their environment" S/He would rather you understood it correctly "organisms change, then the environment determines which survive to have offspring"

Good friggin explanation!

I would have gotten that wrong!!

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Thanks for the explanations :) . My teacher wasn't even here today, so he didn't go over the answers :wacko:

MrCrackerpants - I would say that natural selection would have made the genes. Right?

Oh, bummer that you did not get to go over the answers. :(

Biological evolution made the genes but one of the evolutionary processes that is part of biological evolution is natural selection. Good job! :)

Or God made the genes 6,000 to 7,000 years ago... ;)

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It is clearly C.

In the winter the arctic foxes turn white and in the summer they turn brown so the habitat should be the cause too right? I cannot decide which answer they would want me to choose... it is hard.

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In the winter the arctic foxes turn white and in the summer they turn brown so the habitat should be the cause too right? I cannot decide which answer they would want me to choose... it is hard.

But it is the genes that give them this ability. Put a red fox in that same environment, and he would not change color with the seasons. The thing that makes the difference is the genes in the fox, not the environment.

Biological evolution made the genes but one of the evolutionary processes that is part of biological evolution is natural selection.

Mutation made the genes.

Natural Selection preserved them.

Then the question is: Is mutation evolution?

Back to the initial question, maybe "caused" was not the best verb - it's ambiguous. And... in the end, maybe "evolution" is too ambiguous of a term as well. Generally, it is equated with Darwin's theory (natural selection), otherwise it seems to be referred to as this metaphysical idea: "all things change, all change is evolution"

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But it is the genes that give them this ability. Put a red fox in that same environment, and he would not change color with the seasons. The thing that makes the difference is the genes in the fox, not the environment.

Without the climate change would they change color? I think the climate and the genes make it change color.

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I would of thought sunlight, because amount of sun exposure changes during the seasons, and this triggers coat color and length change.

just like wolves get winter coats as it gets cold and sheds them when it gets warm. The sun affects the temperature of each season. Arctic fox coat changes brown in summer and grows in white during winter.

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Btw here is the exact question...

In the winter, the fur of the arctic fox is white. In summer, the fur darkens to a

reddish brown. What most likely causes the fur of the fox to change color?

  • A the amount of sunlight present
  • B the fox’s habitat
  • C the fox’s genes
  • D the fox’s age

Definitely an interesting question worth debating. It is obvious the genes cause the fur to change color, but we also know habitat, age and sunlight can effect the chemistry of the organism, altering many aspects including pigmentation and other visual changing features. I think you can go very high level as a teacher, but then forget if you have a very detailed thinker in the class, he/she might find holes even science has not considered. I think students should get bonus points just for questioning the truth.

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I know of a historical judge who stated "what is truth?" right before condemning another to die...

Generally speaking, one does not get a reward for simply questioning truth, but rather for shifting a culture's thought process away from an wrong paradigm by disproving an incorrect or incomplete pattern of thought.

Also no paradigm that currently has hegemony over culture's way of thinking ever rewards thoughts which may lead to having itself overthrown.

But this is all philosophical chatter.

I stand by my previous explanation of why C is correct.

Rewarding a student for questioning the truth would allow for an answer such as "because God made it that way" to receive bonus points, because it CLEARLY questions "the truth"

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