Food Chains: How Energy is Transferred

food chain. sun to lizard

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


  1. 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.
  2. Create your own food chain, starting at producers, showing how energy is transferred from one organism to another.

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58 replies

  1. This website is helpful

  2. I like the video because he tells you about food chains 😎 #awesome

  3. In order for organism to survive, they need matter and energy. 10% of the energy consumed by organism passes onto the next link of the Food Chain and this is called the 10% rule.

  4. That the plants get eaten by the Edith’s checkersopt and the Edith’s checkersopt gets eaten by 3 things: Black tipped jackrabbit, Raven, and Western whip tail and the Black tipped jackrabbit, and and Western whip tail get eaten by Coyote and Mountain loin

  5. mountain lion/jack rabbit bobcat/pine martin

    • Hello Sergio. I see what you are doing. You started at the top and worked your way down and then back up again. This time start at the bottom with producer, and work your way back up the food chain.

  6. Douglas’s squirrel eats nuts Black tipped jackrabbit eats Douglas’s squirrel Mountain lion eats the jackrabbit.

  7. red-breasted nuthatch eats western whiptail eats bobcat,mountain lion and coyote.

  8. I like how the food chain has what eats what and what it needs.. 😀


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