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Science

Food chains

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Food chains

A food chain shows the different organisms that live in a habitat, and what eats what.

Producers and consumers

A food chain always starts with a producer, which is an organism that makes food. This is usually a green plant, because plants can make their own food by photosynthesis.

A food chain ends with a consumer, which is an animal that eats a plant or another animal. Here is an example of a simple food chain:

grasscowhuman

Take care - the arrow points to the organism that is doing the eating. If you get the arrows the wrong way round, instead of showing that humans eat cows, you are showing that cows eat humans, and that grass eats cows.

Other words in a food chain

There are several words used to describe the organisms in a food chain. Study this food chain:

Grass Grasshopper Frog Hawk
grass   A grasshopper   a frog   a hawk
Producer   Consumer   Consumer   Consumer
    Primary consumer   Secondary consumer   Tertiary consumer
    Herbivore   Carnivore   Carnivore

The plant is the producer and the animals are consumers.

Notice that the first consumer in the chain is also called the primary consumer, the next one is the secondary consumer and the one after that is the tertiary consumer.

A consumer that eats plants is called a herbivore, and a consumer that eats other animals is called a carnivore. An omnivore is an animal that eats both plants and animals.

Predators and prey

A predator is an animal that eats other animals, and the prey is the animal that gets eaten by the predator. In the food chain above:

  • the frog is a predator and the grasshopper is its prey.

  • the hawk is a predator and the frog is its prey.

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