Each organism is dependent on each other in order to survive. This creates a food chain, the movement of food energy through a sequence, or order, of living things. Every food chain starts with a producer. Producers use sunlight to make their food. (California Science, Harcourt 2008)
Plants, algae and some types of bacteria make their own food using the sun’s energy, carbon dioxide (CO2) and water. They are called producers because they produce or make their own food.
Organisms that eat plants are called herbivores or primary consumers. Examples of primary consumers are insects, flies, and spiders.
Organisms that eat other animals are called carnivores. Owls are carnivores because they eat rodents and birds. Some insects are carnivores. If a carnivore eats an herbivore it is called a secondary consumer. Examples of secondary consumers are snakes, birds, fox, and jackal.
A carnivore that eats another carnivore, it’s called a tertiary consumer. Owls and shrews are both carnivores. Because the owl eats the shrew, this is an example of a tertiary consumer eating a secondary consumer. Example of a tertiary consumers are lions, tigers, and bears.
Decomposers break down waste and dead organisms. Microorganisms recycle nutrients. Example decomposers are bacteria, worms, and fungi.
Here are examples of simple sequences starting with solar energy:
- sun → algae → mosquito → frog → lizard
- sun → leaf → caterpillar → bird → snake
Here are examples of simple food chains starting with producers:
- weeds and wildflowers → pika → raven → golden eagles
- confer seeds → red-breasted nuthatch → western whiptail → western coyote
- holly → holly leaf miner → blue tit → sparrowhawk
LEARN MORE: BIGGER FOOD CHAINS
- In the video, The Food Chain, Richard explains that everything in an ecosystem is connected in some way. In order for organisms to grow and survive, what are the two things that every organism needs? Explain.
- Create your own food chain, starting at producers, showing how energy is transferred from one organism to another.