Who Holds the Highest Position in the Food Chain?

If you’re similar to the majority of children, you most likely acquire the majority of your food from the aisles of your local grocery store. Do you crave some crispy green vegetables? Make your way to the produce aisle and hunt for some wild celery. Does pizza sound more appealing? Simply hide in the frozen food aisle until the perfect moment to snatch that frozen pizza from the freezer arises!

In numerous locations across the globe—and for wild animals—finding food to sustain life is not nearly as effortless as a trip to the supermarket. In the wilderness, it often boils down to a simple 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 straightforward way of explaining how each living organism obtains its food. For instance, a simple African food chain may consist of three components: (1) trees and bushes; (2) giraffes; and (3) lions. Giraffes consume trees and bushes as food, and lions consume giraffes.

Every link in a food chain serves as food for the subsequent link. Food chains always initiate with plants and culminate with animals.

Plants occupy the lowest position in the food chain. Scientists refer to them as producers. This is because they create their own food. To do so, plants utilize light energy from the sun, carbon dioxide, and water. This process is known as photosynthesis.

Animals, unlike plants, are unable to produce their own food. Instead, they must consume plants or other animals. This is why scientists refer to them as consumers.

Consumer animals fall into three categories. Herbivores exclusively consume plants. Carnivores solely consume other animals. Omnivores consume 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 expediting the decaying process. This releases minerals back into the soil to be absorbed by plants as nutrients.

The majority of food chains consist of merely four or five links. As you ascend a food chain, the amount of energy at each level decreases. This is because some of the energy is lost in the form of waste or is utilized by the organism at that level. That is why it takes numerous plants to feed a few giraffes. Subsequently, those few giraffes feed one lion.

The majority of animals are part of numerous different food chains. They must consume more than one type of food to satisfy their energy requirements. All of these interconnected food chains form a more intricate structure known as a food web.

Humans, for example, occupy the central position in 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 are not many animals that view humans as food.

The only creatures that might indulge in a human as a snack are large predators, such as sharks. However, it is extremely rare for humans to be consumed 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? Take a moment to consider where the energy in your food comes from. Did it come from plants that went through photosynthesis? Or maybe it came from animals that ate other animals. You might be surprised to discover just how complex your food web really is!

Give it a Try

Still curious? Ask an adult friend or family member to help you explore further 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 in the name of an animal and see where it falls in the food chain! Did you learn anything surprising? Discuss it with a friend or family member.
  • Think about the foods you eat regularly. Do you know where 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 across the world?
  • Read more about photosynthesis and how plants make their own food. Then, share what you’ve 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)

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