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In ecology, the food chain is the sequence of transfers of matter and energy in the form of food from organism to organism.
See the fact file below for more information on the food chain or alternatively, you can download our 26-page Food Chain worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
A TALE OF SURVIVAL
- Every plant and animal species, regardless of size, depends on another plant or animal species for its survival.
- A food chain demonstrates how energy is transferred from one living organism to another by becoming their food source.
- It also shows how these organisms relate with each other through the food they eat.
- Each level of a food chain represents a different trophic level. The trophic level of an organism is the position it occupies in a food web.
- The level of the organism is the number of steps it is from the start of the food chain.
- Energy is transferred from one living organism to another in the form of food in the food chain.
- They can either be primary producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers or decomposers.
- AUTOTROPHS – Also known as producers, autotrophs make their own food. These primary producers make up the first level of every food chain and are usually one-celled organisms (algae) or plants that we can easily see around us.
- The source of their energy is sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water, except for those that occur in deep-sea hydrothermal ecosystems, where there is no sunlight.
- Examples of algae autotrophs include seaweeds and Phytoplanktons.
- Others producing their own food through chemosynthesis use sulfur compounds to produce their own food, such as bacteria living near volcanoes.
- HETEROTROPHS – Also called consumers, these species are dependent on other organisms to survive because they cannot produce their own food.
- They can either be herbivores (plant eaters), carnivores (animal eaters) or omnivores (animals and plant eaters).
- Herbivores are mostly secondary consumers, and tertiary consumers sometimes eat the secondary consumers.
- DETRITIVORES – These are the organisms that eat non-living plant and animal remains.
- Vultures (scavengers) are examples of detritivores because they eat animal carcasses. Another example are dung beetles. They eat animal feces.
- DECOMPOSERS complete the food chain. These organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, feed on waste and breaks it down to release it as energy and nutrients into the ecosystem for recycling.
EXTENT OF THE CHAIN
- Different habitats and ecosystems produce various food chains.
- This depends on whether the heterotrophs are herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores. Their choice of food also varies depending on the availability of resources.
- Determining the extent of the food chain is also important because the amount of energy transferred decreases as the trophic level increases.
- The efficiency of the food chain is also dependent on the need of the consumer. For example, omnivores can get nutrients from plants that they eat, but much more of it can be consumed when they eat herbivores, such as squirrels.
- On the other hand, humans can cut the food chain by consuming directly what they need. Instead of eating animals that eat grains, they can instead eat grain products directly.
THE PELAGIC FOOD CHAIN
- Marine ecosystems have a slightly different base in the food chain.
- Most primary producers require nitrogen, and phosphorus underwater determines the rate of production of pelagic phytoplanktons.
- Another producer underwater is benthic plants. They grow only on the edge of the oceans, and they are estimated to produce only 5 to 10 % of total marine plant material in a year.
- The third producer is chemoautotrophs. They are the producers of the deep-sea vents.
- Unlike the first two, the abundance of nutrients of phytoplanktons make them the food for primary consumers, such as protozoa and zooplankton – which, in turn, are the food source of marine animals, such as fish and squid.
TYPES OF FOOD CHAIN
- GRAZING FOOD CHAIN – This kind of food chain begins with the plants consumed by herbivores and moves on to carnivores. This depends on autotrophic energy capture and the movement of this captured energy to the herbivores.
- DETRITUS FOOD CHAIN – This kind of food chain begins from dead organic matter turned into microorganisms that are consumed by the detritivores and then their predators.
- It does not wholly depend on solar energy, but rather from the production of organic matter from another system.
Food Chain Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the food chain across 26 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Food Chain worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the food chain which is the sequence of transfers of matter and energy in the form of food from organism to organism.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- The Producer
- Secondary Consumers
- Tertiary Consumers
- King Of The Skies
- Sea Kings
- Land Rulers
- Apex Predator
- The Decomposers
- The Food Web
- Quick Quiz
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Link will appear as Food Chain Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, September 22, 2016
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.