Turtles, like other reptiles, can endure long fasts, in their ability to survive on weekly or even monthly feedings; however, when food is readily available, they may eat frequently and grow very fat.
A.fasts, in their ability to survive
B.fasts, having their ability to survive
C.fasts, due to having the ability of surviving
D.fasts because they are able to survive
E.fasts because of having the ability of surviving
In the sentence as originally presented, the construction can endure . . . in does not
correspond to any standard usage, and the intended meaning is unclear. Typically, one
would expect in to introduce a situation in which the endurance is possible—for example, in captivity or in the winter. However, their ability is not such a situation, and the comma before in counts against such an interpretation. Given the comma after fasts, one might
wonder whether in their ability . . . is intended as an explication or elaboration of the preceding clause. But in that case, in their ability is not a correct way to express it. A
standard way to express that meaning would be in that they are able . . . or being able. . . .
Alternatively, in their ability might be intended to express why turtles can endure long
fasts, but it is not recognizable as a standard way to say that. To make that meaning clear, it should say because of their ability to survive . . . or because they are able to survive. . . .
Answer choice D uses the latter form in a way that makes it clear that it is offering a causal explanation. All the other answer choices contain phrases that have no standard
recognizable meaning and may even seem ungrammatical to many readers.
A.As explained above, the construction can endure in does not correspond to any
standard usage, and the intended meaning is unclear. Depending on what meaning the sentence is supposed to convey, it could be made clearer by saying, for example, can
endure long fasts, in that they are able or can endure long fasts because they are
able. . . .
B.If their ability were changed to the ability or an ability, this could serve as an elaboration of the claim that turtles can endure long fasts. However, having their
ability is nonstandard for this meaning and appears to indicate illogically that turtles’ having their ability, rather than something else’s ability is an important factor. The point is that they are able to survive with infrequent feedings.
C.Ability of is incorrect; ability must be followed by to in order to express the intended meaning. Due to is sometimes used to introduce adverbial modifying phrases, but it is more standardly used adjectively as in “the power failure was due to a severe storm.” In light of that consideration and the comma before due, the phrase due to having the
ability could appear illogically to modify fasts, making it equivalent to fasts, which are due to The word having is superfluous and potentially confusing.
D.Correct. This option uses because in a standard way to express a causal relation and uses to correctly after ability.
E.Ability of is incorrect; ability must be followed by to in order to express the intended meaning. The superfluous words in the phrase because of having the ability contribute nothing to the meaning and could be puzzling or jarring to readers.
The correct answer is D.
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