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#25 - Burying beetles do whatever they can to minimize

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Complete Question Explanation

Resolve the Paradox. The correct answer choice is (C)

Once again, the correct answer for a Resolve the Paradox question must help explain both conditions –
in this case two behaviors – that are described in the stimulus. Many of the incorrect answer choices will
provide support for one of the behaviors without addressing the other, or will even attempt to discredit
or disprove one condition. In this stimulus, the contradictory behaviors are that burying beetles (1) try
to minimize the size of their competitor’s broods, going so far as to destroy the eggs of other beetles
when possible, and yet (2) treat all of the larvae equally after they have hatched. The first behavior seems
motivated by a concern only for one’s own offspring, while the second seems motivated by a concern for
the entire community.

The correct answer must reconcile these two behaviors by providing a possible cause for the
discrepancy. To resolve the paradox, one could show that burying beetle destroying each other’s eggs is
just as “generous” as raising each other’s larvae, or that raising each other’s larvae is just as “selfish” as
destroying each other’s eggs. Answer choice (C) shows how the second behavior/condition – helping to
raise each other’s larvae – could be motivated solely by a concern for one’s own offspring. If burying
beetles only care about their own offspring but cannot distinguish their own larvae from others’ larvae,
they must protect all of the larvae to ensure that their own survive.

Answer choice (A): This reinforces the idea that there is competition among burying beetles. Each
burying beetle would want to lay its eggs first, destroy its competitor’s eggs, and have the largest
possible brood. But this answer choice does not explain why burying beetles cooperate with each other
in raising larvae.

Answer choice (B): This answer choice provides a plausible explanation for the second behavior. It
suggests that burying beetles cooperate in raising larvae to ensure that the greatest possible number of
larvae survive. But if this is their primary motivation, then why would they try to minimize each others’
broods before the eggs hatch? This answer choice does not explain the first behavior.

Answer choice (C): This is the correct answer choice. The stimulus states that burying beetles
“destroy each other’s eggs.” This means that the beetles must be able to distinguish their own broods
from their competitors (i.e. their own eggs from those of their competitors). But if they are unable to
discriminate between their own larvae and the larvae of other burying beetles, they would be unable to
destroy each other’s larvae without potentially destroying some of their own larvae. Thus, the instinct of
burying beetles to preserve their own offspring explains both behaviors.

Answer choice (D): While the thought of burying beetles banding together to fend off predators may
seem reasonable, it does not explain either behavior from the stimulus. The need to fend off predators
would not require burying beetles to treat all larvae equally and it certainly would not explain why the
beetles “routinely destroy each other’s eggs.”

Answer choice (E): Competition for limited resources or space at breeding sites would certainly help
explain the first behavior. Burying beetles would kill each other’s eggs to prevent overcrowding. But
this does not explain why burying beetles treat all larvae equally after they have hatched. If this answer
choice were true, one would still expect burying beetles to prefer their own larvae to the larvae of other
beetles.