Who Dominates the Food Chain?

If you’re similar to the majority of children, you likely obtain most of your food from the aisles of your local grocery store. Do you crave some crispy green vegetables? Head over to the produce aisle and track down some wild celery. Does pizza sound more appealing? Just wait in the frozen food aisle until the perfect moment to grab that frozen pizza from the freezer!

In many parts of the world—and for animals in the wild—finding food to sustain life is not nearly as simple as a trip to the supermarket. In the wild, it often boils down to a straightforward question: are you a predator or prey? And sometimes, the answer is both!

All living organisms require energy. Energy is obtained from the food we consume. A food chain is a basic way of illustrating how each organism obtains its food. For instance, a simple African food chain might consist of three parts: (1) trees and bushes; (2) giraffes; and (3) lions. Giraffes eat trees and bushes as their food, and lions consume giraffes.

Each link in a food chain serves as food for the next link. Food chains always begin with plants and end with animals.

Plants are located at the bottom of the food chain. Scientists refer to them as producers. This is because they create their own food. To do this, plants use light energy from the sun, carbon dioxide, and water. This process is known as photosynthesis.

Unlike plants, animals are unable to produce their own food. Instead, they must consume plants or other animals. This is the reason why scientists call them consumers.

Consumer animals can be categorized into three groups. Herbivores exclusively eat plants. Carnivores solely consume other animals. Omnivores eat both plants and animals. What type of consumer are you?

In addition to producers and consumers, there are also decomposers. These organisms include bacteria and fungi. They feed on decaying matter. They assist the food chain by accelerating the decaying process. This releases minerals back into the soil, which are then absorbed by plants as nutrients.

Most food chains consist of only four or five links. As you move up a food chain, the amount of energy at each level decreases. This is because some of the energy is lost as waste or is used by the organism at that level. That’s why it takes numerous plants to feed a few giraffes. Those few giraffes, in turn, feed one lion.

Most animals are a part of several different food chains. They must consume more than one type of food to meet their energy requirements. All of these interconnected food chains form a more complex structure known as a food web.

Humans, for example, are at the center of a very intricate food web. We tend to consume various types of plants and animals. And contrary to what you may have read in fairy tales, there aren’t many animals that view humans as food.

The only creatures that might consider humans as a snack are large predators, such as sharks. However, it is extremely rare for humans to be preyed upon by predators. Most predators have more to fear from humans than we have to fear from them!

Have you ever thought about what makes up your food web? The next time you have a meal, consider where the energy in your food might have come from. Did it come from plants that made their own food through photosynthesis? Or did it come from animals that ate other plants or animals? Your food web is likely to be quite complex!

Give it a Try

Still curious? Ask an adult friend or family member to help you continue learning with the activities below:

  • If you’re interested in knowing where a specific animal falls in the food chain, check out the website What Eats? Type the name of the animal in the search box and see where it fits in the food chain! Did you learn anything surprising? Discuss it with a friend or family member.
  • Think about the foods you eat regularly. Where do they come from? Make a list of the top ten things you eat most often and ask a friend or family member to help you find out where they come from. Are they from a local farm or from somewhere far away?
  • Learn more about how plants produce their own food through photosynthesis. Then, share what you learned with a friend or family member.

Sources of Wonder

  • http://www.whateats.com/ (accessed 02 Jan. 2019)
  • http://www.vtaide.com/png/foodchains.htm (accessed 02 Jan. 2019)
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_chain (accessed 02 Jan. 2019)
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_web (accessed 02 Jan. 2019)


1. Who is at the top of the food chain?

At the top of the food chain, we find apex predators or top predators. These are animals that have no natural predators and are not preyed upon by other animals.

2. What characteristics define an apex predator?

Apex predators are usually large and powerful, with sharp teeth or claws that they use to hunt and kill their prey. They are typically at the highest trophic level in their respective ecosystems.

3. Are humans considered apex predators?

Yes, humans are considered apex predators. We have the ability to hunt and kill a wide range of animals, and we have no natural predators that threaten our survival.

4. How do apex predators help maintain the balance of ecosystems?

Apex predators play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems. By controlling the population of herbivores and other prey species, they prevent overgrazing and help maintain biodiversity.

5. Can apex predators become endangered?

Yes, apex predators can become endangered due to various factors such as habitat loss, hunting, pollution, and climate change. When their populations decline, it can have cascading effects on the entire ecosystem.

6. Are there any threats to the position of apex predators?

While apex predators are powerful and have no natural predators, they can still face threats. Human activities such as hunting, habitat destruction, and pollution can impact their populations and disrupt the balance of ecosystems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *